INDIA. Mumbai: The Hanuman Chalisa controversy has heightened political tensions. Every day, the leaders of the BJP and the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the state’s ruling party, trade accusations.
The Hanuman Chalisa is a Hindu devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman, the Hindu god. It was written by Poet Tulsidas in the Awadhi language.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Chief Raj Thackeray launched the demand to remove loudspeakers from mosques by May 3 during the party’s Gudi Padwa (April 2) rally in Shivaji Park in Dadar, Central Mumbai, and it has since snowballed into a big controversy.
While Raj Thackeray has threatened to recite “Hanuman Chalisa” in front of the mosques if the loudspeakers were not removed, the lawmaker couple- Navnit Rana (MP) and Ravi Rana (MLA), were arrested by the Mumbai police when they attempted to reach “Matoshri” the residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, located at Bandra in North West Mumbai, to recite “Hanuman Chalisa.”
The pair were detained on Saturday night, April 23, and the Metropolitan Magistrate put them in judicial detention for 14 days. The pair have been charged with sedition (section 4 A of the Indian Penal Code) by the Khar Police. This area has been degraded for seeking to incite opposition to the government.
The police are also reviewing the Rana couple’s call records to see who incited them to stir up the Hanuman Chalisa debate, as both of them are independent and do not belong to any political party.
The Shiv Sainiks laid a virtual siege outside Matoshri to prevent the Rana couple from reciting Hanuman Chalisa in front of “Matoshri” as soon as the Rana couple announced their intention to do so. The police had already warned the couple not to cause any disturbances.
Despite this, they went on, facing the fury of the Shiv Sena’s youth wing workers, who had gathered in huge numbers.
BJP Leaders show support to the lawmaker couple
The BJP leaders- former MP Kirit Somaiya and Mohit Kamboj, reached Khar police station and the Kalanagar area of Bandra, respectively, to express solidarity with the Ranas. But they were allegedly roughed up by the Shiv Sainiks, and the police were accused of Being silent spectators.
In turn, the Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey wrote a letter to the Chief of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), questioning what the CISF guards posted to protect Kirit Somaiya was doing while he was being roughed up. In turn, the CISF taking cognizance, has now said that the police could be ordered to open fire if he is attacked again.
Similarly, based on an e-mail sent by Navnit Rana, alleging that the officials used a casteist slur and denied her drinking water, the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has called for a report from the Maharashtra Government.
Sanjay Pandey, the Mumbai Police Commissioner, shared a video of Navnit Rana sipping a tea supplied by the police at the Khar police station.
Moreover, Maharashtra Minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal disputed the charges, questioning if Navnit belonged to the reserved group.
The Opposition leader in the state legislative Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, who too came in support of the Rana couple, recited Hanuman Chalisa in front of reporters during a press conference in Mumbai Monday.
He said, “We will recite the Hanuman Chalisa every day and the MVA government was free to slap sedition charges against us. Are we in Pakistan?” However, he did not explain why the Rana couple came from Badnera in Amravati district in Vidarbha to Mumbai to recite Hanuman Chalisa in front of the CM’s residence.
As the controversy continued to rage, the BJP boycotted an all-party meeting convened by the Home Minister Dilip Valse Patil to discuss the issue of loudspeakers on Monday, saying that the home minister had no powers to decide the issue and the meeting was a mere farce. Eventually, the panel decided to approach the Union Government seeking directions in this regard.
Pol Khol rath
In another attempt to outwit the Shiv Sena controlling the BMC for the last several years, the BJP has been taking a “Pol Khol” rath (a civic poll campaign vehicle) around Mumbai for the last few days. However, the vehicle was vandalized by some unknown persons at Cheetah camp in North East Mumbai on April 19. Subsequently, the police arrested two persons and sent them to police custody.
While the legality of the sedition charges levelled by the MVA government against the Rana couple is being debated in legal circles, the police officers claim that the sedition charges were slapped only after watching the video shot recording the utterances of the couple.
Even as the sedition charges are a new issue, there have been concerted raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other central agencies on the premises of the MVA leaders in the last few months. Some of them have already been booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) by the ED. Some others are facing action by the Income Tax department.
A string of MVA leaders facing action by the Central agencies includes NCP leaders Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Ministers-Nawab Malik, Anil Deshmukh, and Prajakt Tanpure. S Eknath Khadse (with BJP earlier) and Shiv Sena leaders Pratap Sarnaik and Yashwant Jadhav are in the Central agencies’ net.
The ED has attached some sugar factories, including the Jarandeshwar Sugar Mills Private Limited located at Koregaon in Satara in Western Maharashtra. The factory is linked to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is accused of being involved in a Rs 65 crore fraud.
Similarly, the ED has also attached the assets, including 90 acres of land of the erstwhile Ram Ganesh Gadkari cooperative Sugar factory located in Ahmednagar district.
The factory is linked to Maharashtra Minister Prasad Tanpure (NCP), who has been accused of being involved in selling the factory fraudulently with the then officials and directors of Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) at a throwaway price to related entities without following due procedure.
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