Mumbai: MNS leader Raj Thackeray on Tuesday reached the rally venue at Girgaum Chowpatty to protest against the Azad maidan violence on August 11.
TV reports said that thousands gathered along the protest venue throwing traffic out of gear and causing a 2km-traffic jam. Mumbai police geared up for a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) procession and rally in the city scheduled on Tuesday afternoon, 10 days after a rally by Muslims turned violent and left two dead.
The city police had on Monday night grudgingly permitted MNS to hold a rally but barred the party from taking out a five-km procession from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan, as Mumbaikars braced for disruption of normal life.
A defiant MNS chief Raj Thackeray declared on Monday that whatever happened, the party would take out the protest procession, compelling the police to move into top gear.
"I will march irrespective of the permission. The state will have to bear the consequences if my rally is disrupted," Raj said on Monday.
A file photo of MNS leader Raj Thackeray in Mumbai. AFP
Dismissing the police claim that the rally would result in traffic disruption, Raj questioned why the authorities gave Raza Academy permission to conduct a rally.
However, CM Prithviraj Chavan said action would be taken if anything illegal was done.
Claiming that he had made this clear to Thackeray, Chavan said, "The protest is an attempt by him to get Hindutva space and score over the Sena."
Sources close to Chavan said he was not happy with Raj's attempt to get sympathy of the policemen by capitalising on the issue.
Two people were killed and over 40 injured on August 11 after a protest by several Muslim organisations to condemn the alleged attacks on Muslims in Myanmar and the Assam riots turned violent.
A policeman near a torched vehicle after a protest against Assam riots turned violent in Mumbai. PTI Photo
Wiser by the incident, strong security arrangements were put in place since early morning across Mumbai, including two highways slicing the city, all major roads leading to south Mumbai, major railway stations and other locations en route.
Road blocks at strategic locations, random checks of vehicles and traffic diversions are already in force in most parts of the city in an attempt to prevent any untoward incident.
The MNS rally would demand the resignation of state home minister RR Patil and police commissioner Arup Patnaik for their alleged failure during the August 11 rally by various Muslim organisations.
Though MNS leaders have claimed that over one lakh people will participate in the procession, police expect around 40,000-50,000 people to march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Marine Drive flyover and proceed to Azad Maidan via Metro Cinema junction.
Joint police commissioner (law & order) Rajneesh Sheth declined to disclose the actual police presence for the MNS procession, but official sources said around 12,000 policemen supervised by three additional police commissioners would be deployed.