Right-wing Indian leader's arrest sparks violence in Mumbai

Other News Materials 21 October 2008 12:43 (UTC +04:00)

Police in India's western city of Mumbai Tuesday arrested the leader of a right-wing party on charges of rioting and disrupting government work, a move that led large parts of the city to shut down as his supporters went on a rampage and damaged public transport, officials and news reports said.

Raj Thackeray, chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, who has been accused of inciting attacks on migrant north-Indian workers, was arrested in the Ratnagiri district, some 250 kilometres south of Mumbai, in the early hours of Tuesday, police said.

On Sunday, MNS activists attacked the railway recruitment examination centres in Mumbai and beat up candidates from northern India, reported dpa.

The incident led to a furore in the Indian Parliament as lawmakers from northern India staged a walkout demanding Thackeray's arrest.

Soon after, police in Mumbai, capital of Mahrashtra state, detained 1,000 MNS supporters and arrested Thackeray and other prominent workers from his party.

Thackeray launched the MNS in 2006 after parting ways with another regional party known as the Shiv Sena.

The MNS ideology is not much different from the parent party, which holds that Maharashtrians are superior in race and culture to others in India and deserve more rights in the state than the migrants.

Thackeray's arrest triggered violence in Mumbai and parts of Maharashtra as MNS supporters who torched public buses and told office-goers to return home, the IANS news agency reported.

Many shops and commercial establishments, especially those run or managed by non-Maharashtrians, chose not to open at all to avoid trouble. School and educational institutions remained shut.

Raj Thackeray was to be produced in the court in Mumbai later on Tuesday afternoon.

The NDTV reported that MNS activists gathered outside the court premises, pelted stones and shouted slogans in support of Thackeray. Police had to resort to baton-charging to disperse the protestors.

There were reports of violence from other parts of Maharashtra as well where MNS activists burnt tyres and pelted stones.

While in some areas, buses, taxis and autorickshaws were set on fire, in others areas public transport stayed off the roads causing great inconvenience to people.

This is the second time this year that Thackeray has been arrested for his tirade against north Indians.

Thackeray's remarks that people from northern India who had made their home in Mumbai and other towns of Maharashtra were depriving locals of jobs led to days of violence against migrants during February.