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Thackeray-Azmi rivalry goes back a long way

Source: PTI
November 10, 2009 09:45 IST
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It is not the first time that Raj Thackeray and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi, who was assaulted by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena members in the Maharashtra Assembly, have crossed swords. The rivalry between the two leaders began last year, when Raj launched an anti-north Indian campaign, demanding rights for sons-of-the-soil.

The campaign took a violent turn when MNS men thrashed north-Indians, forcing several of them to leave the state. Raj even opposed celebrating Chhat pooja and north India day in Maharashtra and said "only Maharashtra Day must be celebrated in Maharashtra".

Acting as a defender of north Indians, Azmi got into a war of words with Raj and said he would distribute batons to the people to protect them from MNS men. Raj retaliated, saying he would distribute swords to Marathi people to take on the batons. Both the leaders were arrested last year in February under various sections of the Indian Penal Code like provocation with intent to cause riot, promoting enmity between groups on the basis of places of birth, residence among others. 

Before the Assembly session began on Monday, a political debate was started as Azmi demanded the House agenda
in Hindi."Hindi is our national language and it should come after Marathi. However, the House agenda and other papers were
in Marathi and English. So, I wrote to the Assembly secretary demanding the agenda in Hindi," Azmi, who was elected from
Mankhurd in central Mumbai and Bhiwandi in Thane district had said.

Furious over Azmi's demand, Raj, known for his anti-north Indian campaign, said "If Azmi wants the House agenda in Hindi, then he should go to Uttar Pradesh." Thirteen candidates of MNS have been elected to the Assembly while 11 of the Republican Left Democratic Front, which also includes SP, were elected in the state Assembly polls.

Four MNS candidates were suspended for assaulting Azmi on the first day of the session, after he began taking oath in
Hindi. In February last year, Raj Thackeray and Azmi were arrested and released on bail hours after their arrest by
Mumbai Police on charges of promoting enmity between groups and inciting violence.

Raj and Azmi were booked under sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153 A (promoting enmity between groups on the basis of place of birth, residence, etc.) and 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration).

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