Mumbai, Mar 3: The signature campaign, undertaken by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in support of its president Raj Thackeray's anti-North Indian stance and the state government's gag order, has received encouraging response from Marathi-speaking people, including politicians and celebrities.
The first politician to support Raj's view was rebel NCP MLA Dr Shalinitai Patil, followed by former Shiv Sena MP and litterateur Narayan Athavale. A group of Maharashtrian artistes connected with the Marathi and Hindi film industry including veteran actor Nana Patekar, Shreyas Talpade, Ashok Saraf, his wife Nivedita, Ankush Chaudhary, Prashant Damle, Mohan Joshi and Kanchan Adhikari have also voiced their support against 'speech ban' on Raj. The signature campaign, which is continuing at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus here, has so far received over five lakh signatures.
Earlier, on February 3, Raj Thackeray lashed out at North Indians working in the city, especially those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, ahead of a rally by United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), organised by a constituent Samajwadi Party, at Shivaji Park on the same day. He also launched verbal attack against SP leader Amar Singh and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan. It sparked violence in the metropolis and soon spread to other parts of the state. During the violence, MNS workers assaulted workers from North India, especially taxi drivers, and also damaged their taxis. One Marathi-speaking person was also killed in the stone pelting incident in Nashik.
A week later, the state government registered an FIR against Mr Thackeray at the suburban Vikhroli Police Station in northeast Mumbai, under Sections 153, 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code, charging him for ''promoting'' enmity between groups and ''provoking'' incidents of violence in the city. The offence was a non-bailable one.
On February 13, he was granted bail on a surety of Rs 15,000.
Following this, the Sessions court imposed a ban on him restraining him from holding public rallies and news conferences, which was quashed by the Bombay High Court till tonight.