Mumbai: Maharashtra Navanirman Sena workers vandalised toll booths across the state after their leader Raj Thackeray exhorted them to get violent and hit back if asked for toll taxes in the state. MNS activists, some of whom were arrested, destroyed toll posts in at least eight cities across Maharashtra between Sunday night and early Monday morning, an officer here said.
"There are reports of attacks on various toll posts in the state and some of the attackers were also arrested," the officer said.
The toll posts attacked are in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Pune, Aurangabad, Sangli and Nagpur. The attacks were carried out allegedly by Mahararashtra Navnirman Sena and Shiv Sena activists. The violence began when Thackeray, known for inciting mobs and propagating violence, asked his people to refuse paying toll tax, which roughly brings in Rs. 2 billion per year to the state treasury, and also resort to violence if insisted by officials.
"Don't pay toll, If they stop you then oppose them. Doesn't matter if there are long traffic jams," Thackeray had said. "I am ordering my workers to ensure that no toll tax is charged at any booth in Maharashtra. If anyone asks for toll tax, then phod dijiye, pitiye (destroy, attack, thrash them), whatever be the consequences," he had added to much applause.
Taking a cue from their leaders' speech, MNS workers immediately swung into action and took a toll on posts in different parts of the state since early this morning, vandalising and stopping the toll collection. In Pune, at least six rampaging activists were arrested, while the police rushed additional security to other toll posts.
In view of the strong anti-toll sentiments among the masses, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had assured last week that the toll collection issue would be reviewed and a new policy would be announced soon. His comments came in the wake of the violent anti-toll agitation that engulfed Kolhapur and surrounding areas a fortnight ago which elicited widespread support elsewhere in the state.