Announcing his support to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray on Sunday threatened those opposing these measures to get ready for retaliation through stones and swords.
“Today’s march is an answer to those who have been organising protests against the CAA and the NRC. You will get a march as an answer to your march. But let me warn you, stones will be answered with stones and swords will be answered with swords,” he said in an address to party workers at the Azad Maidan at the end of a march.
“I have never understood the reason for Muslims protesting against the CAA and the NRC. It is to show their strength. This march is to show our strength. I have nothing against Indian Muslims but there are certain ‘mohallas’ in different parts of the State which have become the hub of illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh, which need to be cleaned,” he said.
Thousands of party workers gathered at Hindu Gymkhana at Marine Drive in south Mumbai marched to Azad Maidan, where no other leader than Mr. Thackeray spoke.
Earlier in the day, MNS leader Sandip Deshpande said workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak sangh (RSS) had also participated in the march.
Sporting the party’s new saffron flag on his right bicep, Mr. Thackeray said that accepting non-Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh was nothing wrong while supporting the CAA. “I have criticised the BJP government for wrong deeds, but at the same time I have applauded its steps like scrapping of Article 370. The CAA is limited to giving citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring countries and there is nothing wrong in it,” he said.
But he said the country could not sustain if illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries continued to reside here, and therefore a pan-India NRC must be implemented. “I will support if you want to implement it here. The government is now saying it has not decided on the NRC. But if you want to do it, then do it sternly,” he said. India could not be seen as ‘dharmashala,’ especially when many western countries were sending out illegal immigrants.
He called Pakistan a terror hub and pointed to the Mumbai blasts to drive home his support for the NRC.
Mr. Thackeray’s rhetoric of answering the protests against the CAA and NRC in the same coin is similar to his 2008 speech which kicked off the party’s violent attacks against north Indians in Mumbai and surrounding areas. It led to his arrest and filing of several cases against him. But the legal action helped his party in the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly election, where the MNS won 13 seats in its début, affecting the Shiv Sena’s prospects in several urban seats.