By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Dec 18 (IANS): The Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), like-minded parties and other organisations and groups took out a huge 'halla-bol' procession in south Mumbai to protest the repeated insults to icons and demanded the ouster of the state governor, here on Saturday.
The procession, with estimates ranging between 2.5-3 lakh participants, started from Byculla and terminated after around 5 km near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, where it converted into a public rally that was addressed by top leaders.
Amid tight police bandobast en route, the processionists marched peacefully with their respective party or group flags, plus banners, posters, and placards condemning the non-stop vilification of eminent historical personalities by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar said that the turnout should serve as a warning to the government that if they still don't heed the peoples' sentiments, then the people will teach them a lesson and overthrow them in a democratic manner.
"I remember how 70 years ago, hundreds of demonstrations took place on the issue of a unified Maharashtra, many came to be martyred for the Marathi speaking, and their sacrifices bore fruit. Today, people from every corner of the state have again come forward for the pride and honour of the state, which is under attack," said Pawar amidst applause.
Attacking Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Pawar said people like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Mahatma Jyotirao and Savitri Phule, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil enjoy the highest honour and respect of the masses.
"I have seen many Governors in the past over five decades, including eminent ones like Dr. S. D. Sharma, many worked to enhance the image of the statea But I have never seen such a Governor (Koshyari) who is bringing disrepute to the legacy of the state. He mocks persons who have contributed huge to the state and the Governor has forfeited the right to hold his position," thundered Pawar.
In a scathing attack, Shiv Sena (UBT) President and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that "this Governor is unacceptable" to the people for his slurs on idols of the state whom the masses revere.
Targeting the ruling Bahasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS)-BJP, he said that all the groups, parties and people of the state who adore the icons have turned up for the 'halla-bol' processions barring the 'traitors' (referring to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his supporters).
"Consider the dignity of the office of the Governor... the person represents the President and must behave accordingly... if any person is made Governor and he keeps making such remarks, we will not tolerate it. A minister makes derogatory remarks against (NCP) MP Supriya Sule and such people utter the name of the Chhatrapati. These scoundrels have no right to take the Maharaj's name, they are just here to loot the state," declared Thackeray.
Slamming the BSS-BJP regime, Congress state President Nana Patole said that after the Shinde-Fadnavis took over the border issue has cropped up and villages are clamouring to merge with Karnataka.
"This is a processions against the traitors who are trying to ruin the efforts of the great leaders of the past like Y. B. Chavan, and are now trying to ruin the state's unitya This ED government is attempting to divide the state and we shall never allow it," roared Patole.
Taking on the Governor, Patole said that the scheme to insult the idols of Maharashtra started with Bhagat Singh Koshyari and later BJP leaders continued the same work, which is highly condemnable and people will not forgive them.
Nana Patole further said that the work of insulting the gods of Maharashtra started with Koshyari from Raj Bhavan and later BJP leaders continued the same work and don't deserve to remain in office.
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar pointed out how ever since the Shinde-Fadnavis government took power, they have sowed treason and disunity in the state, but this mega-march has showed that whenever there is a crisis, the entire population will arise to protect the dignity of the state.
He said that when a person errs, it's the culture of the state to apologise and forgive, but it is not happening with the current rulers, who have forgotten the laws and Constitutional niceties, and demanded the removal of Koshyari.
Ajit Pawar also took objections to allowing the payment of government staffers salaries through the Karnataka Bank when the neighbouring state is needling Maharashtra continuously.
Other prominent speakers included Leader of Opposition (Council) Ambadas Danve, Samajwadi Party state President Abu Asim Azmi, Amita A. Chavan, NCP state President Jayant Patil, Supriya Sule, Balasaheb Thorat, Aditya Thackeray, Sanjay Raut, Vidya Chavan, Vinayak Raut, Chhagan Bhujbal, PWP President Jayant Patil, Sunil Tatkare, Chandrakant Khaire, Bhai Jagtap, Kapil Patil and others.
Among important leaders joining the march included the Thackerays, Arif Naseem Khan, ex-CM Prithviraj Chavan, Manikrao Thakre, Jitendra Awhad, Dilip Walse-Patil, Varsha Gaikwad, Aslam Shaikh, Raghunath Kuchik, Atul Londhe, Sambhaji Brigade and other Shiv Premi organisations, the Mumbai Dabbawalas, etc.
As the processions wended its way through the Muslim-dominated, some Muslim families showered flower petals on the marchers and thousands stood in verandahs, building terraces or rooftops and on the Sir J.J. Flyover to view the multi-party marchers going briskly to their destination.