Raj Thackeray's men turn GOONs, vandalise Cong office

Mumbai, Dec 1: Raj Thackeray's MNS activists on Friday vandalised the Mumbai Congress headquarters and termed it "a surgical strike" -- amid a renewed war of words over north Indian migrants -- evoking a strong reaction from Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam and others.

At least half-a-dozen MNS activists barged into party office at Azad Maidan while it was being cleaned and damaged glass cabins, fittings and furniture with sticks and stones within minutes. The vandalism was captured on CCTVs installed inside the office.

Though there were no casualties, the office premises were badly damaged.

Virtually patting himself for the violence, MNS Secretary Sandeep Deshpande tweeted: "MNS carried out a 'surgical strike' on Bhaiyya Sanjay Nirupam's office. We shall give an apt reply (Eent ka jawab pathhar se milega..)."

Hours later, police detained Deshpande and five other MNS activists and registered a case against them.

Deshpande told the media in the evening: "MNS is proud of our men. They have done good work."

The surprise admission by the MNS leader rekindled an ongoing fight between the two parties over north Indian migrants living and working in Mumbai.

Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam, himself from north India, termed the vandalism an "act of cowards by impotent and frustrated MNS workers who are routinely getting beaten up by hawkers".

He urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to "act fast (against MNS) or a befitting reply will be given for sure".

Taking no chances after the Congress leader's statement, police beefed up security outside Raj Thackeray's residence near Shivaji Park and MNS offices across the city.

Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said the MNS deserved to be conferred with a 'Hawkers Bhushan' award for its actions against north Indian hawkers and people living and working in the city.

He urged Thackeray and the MNS to exercise restraint as "even the Shiv Sena has a north Indian wing".

The MNS has revived its anti-migrant agitation after nearly a decade in the wake of the September 29 stampede at the overbridge at Elphinstone Road railway station and it began clearing railway stations and surrounding premises of hawkers, most of who are from north India.

The Congress threw its lot behind the migrants and hawkers -- and even Fadnavis came out in support of north Indians for their contribution to the state's economy.

Friday's vandalism attracted condemnation from several leaders including former Chief Ministers Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Gehlot, and former Union Minister Gurudas Kamat.

"Shocking... to what level certain people can stoop is really disturbing. Even worse is to see to what extent they are protected by those in power," Kamat said.
IANS