THANE: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers pulled down signboards written in Gujarati from some commercial establishments in Mumbai and adjoining Vasai, hours after party chief Raj Thackeray yesterday alleged that there was a "design" of the BJP-led central government to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra.
Addressing a Gudhi Padwa (Maharashtrian new year) rally in central Mumbai, Thackeray had called for a "Modi-mukt Bharat", alleging that the Bullet Train project was a "ploy" to de-link the Vasai-Virar belt, with an ultimate aim to separate Mumbai.
Referring to the "mushrooming" of Gujarati signboards, the MNS chief had said encouraging outsiders (Gujaratis) to settle in the Vasai-Virar belt was a part of the "grand design" to achieve the said goal as in 1960, Gujarat had failed to get Mumbai, for which it had staked a claim.
After the rally, MNS workers, carrying party flags, ransacked a few roadside eateries near Vasai, on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, last night and destroyed their signboards written in Gujarati.
Today, some shops in Mumbai that had Gujarati signboards, including a sweet shop in the north Mumbai suburb of Kandivli, faced the wrath of the MNS workers, police said.
The Kandivli police lodged a case of rioting against around 10 MNS workers in connection with the vandalism and arrested four persons, Senior Police Inspector Mukund Pawar said.
This is not the first time that the MNS has attacked properties owned by Gujaratis in Maharashtra.
In July 2017, the party had launched violent protests against a jewellery shop and a hotel in Mumbai, forcing them to pull down their signboards written in Gujarati.
After the Vasai incident, MNS Thane region president Avinash Jadhav said, "Vasai is in Maharashtra and not in Gujarat. We will not tolerate signboards in Gujarati."
Addressing the party workers at a rally at Shivaji Park last night, Thackeray had said, "The country is fed up with the false promises made by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and his government."
"All the opposition parties should come together to get rid of the BJP-led NDA government to ensure a Modi-mukt Bharat," he had said, while reminding the audience of the BJP's "Congress-mukt Bharat" slogan.
Describing the vandalism by MNS workers as a nuisance tactic, a political analyst said, "Raj Thackeray is doing what he is best known for. He should understand that the times have changed and the people are interested in constructive politics."
The MNS chief has been critical of Modi as according to him, the latter wants to shift all the major establishments from Maharashtra to Gujarat.
In 2008, the MNS had started a campaign to ensure that signboards across Mumbai were in Marathi.
In 2016, during Paryushan, the fasting period of the Jain community, the MNS had opposed the closure of meat shops and opened them forcibly.
Meanwhile, state BJP vice president Neeta Kelkar today filed a complaint with the Sangli police against Thackeray, wherein it was alleged that the MNS chief had "hidden" information from the state government about "impending communal riots in the country on the Ram Mandir issue".
At his rally, Thackeray had said communal riots would be triggered in the country in the next few months on the issue of the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
"If Raj Thackeray knows in advance about riots, then he and his party should not have hidden the information from the government," Kelkar said.
A police official said they were looking into the matter.