Violence triggers on Raj Thackeray's arrest

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Mumbai, Oct 21 (UNI) A day after he dared the government, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray was arrested today in Ratnagiri for attack against North Indians, triggering stray incidents of violence and arson across the state.

Fearing a backlash a large number of taxis and autorickshaws, driven mostly by north Indians, kept away from the roads as MNS activists indulged in pitched battle with the police before a local court in Bandra where the arrested leader was to be produced. MNS activists threw stones at police and damaged several vehicles at Bandra and elsewhere in the state as the news about the arrest of Mr Thackeray spread.

Though a warrant against the arrest of Mr Thackeray had reached the city from a Jamshedpur court, the MNS leader was arrested around 0230 hrs at Ratnagiri by a team of police in Kherwadi in the western suburbs of the city in connection with the attack on candidates from North India on October 19, when they had come to give an examination conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board. Widespread violence was reported on that day in various parts of the city and MNS activists vandalised some of the railway stations.

The incidents triggered widespread protests all over the country leading to the arrest of Mr Thackeray who yesterday dared the Maharashtra government to arrest him and the state would burn if he was put behind the bars.

MNS activists took to the streets soon after his arrest as a number of taxis and autorickshaws became targets of MNS activists.

The city's roads, normally choked by traffic, were today relatively free as the taxis kept off the roads fearing the brunt of the MNS workers.

Reports from Navi Mumbai, Pune, Solapur and Nashik also reported stray incidents of violence, with public property being vandalised.

Several localities in the city also reported stray incidents with shops and business establishments downing shutters fearing damage to their property.

The scene of action, however, was the Metropolitan Magistrate's court in suburban Bandra, where MNS activists, including a large number of women, had gathered since morning keenly waiting for their leader.

Tight security ring was thrown around the court premises and all hell broke loose when some of the MNS workers attempted to enter the court. Police repeatedly lathicharged on the miscreants who burnt an autorickshaw, besides damaging three buses and some autorickshaws and even ransacking an office premises. In view of the tense situation, police delayed producing Mr Thackeray before the court.

The western highway, close to the court premises, was blocked following the incidents.

Defending the action Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said in a television interview that the law would take its own course against Mr Thackeray and the situation was peaceful in the state, barring sporadic incidents.

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