Even as attacks on policemen and policewomen are on the rise in Maharashtra, the Thackeray cousins are engaged in a tussle of sorts to be the voice of the agonised police. This week, a day after a delegation of wives of policemen met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray at his residence in Dadar, ruling party Shiv Sena’s chief Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting with the ladies. The next day, Uddhav led the women’s delegation to “Varsha” bungalow to put forth their grievances before Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Miffed by the sudden interest shown by Uddhav, Raj’s camp is now venting ire on the Sena, accusing it of being “opportunistic”.
“The police are our protectors. Recently, there has been a rise in the number of attacks on them. We are very worried about it. We will stand by the police like our own family,” Uddhav Thackeray told reporters outside “Varsha” bungalow. His convoy had vehicles arranged specially for the wives and widows of policemen.
The Shiv Sena’s move came after Raj Thackeray consistently followed the issue of attacks on police. He was one of the first politicians to have visited police constable Vilas Shinde in Lilavati Hospital in the last week of August. Shinde succumbed to severe head injuries after he was attacked by two siblings. One of them hit Shinde grievously on his head after the police constable stopped his under-aged younger brother for riding a two-wheeler without helmet. Shinde’s death caused an uproar among the constabulary. The irate family members of the police gheraoed Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis when he went to offer condolences.
Soon after that, a delegation of the wives of policemen visited MNS leader Raj Thackeray at his residence, putting forth their grievances. He assured them of taking up the issue. After Shinde’s death, a series of attacks on police continued. During one of the visarjan days, an activist of a BJP leader’s Ganpati mandal tried to drown a police sub-inspector on duty. A policewoman was assaulted by a brother-sister duo after the policewoman stopped the sister when she was riding a bike without helmet. The police have now taken a stern view of the matter. The Director General of Police recently announced that attacks on the police would not be taken lightly.
Meanwhile, after the wives of policemen met Raj Thackeray, the Sena sensed the political opportunity and swung into action the next day. The delegation of wives of policemen then went to “Matoshree”, Uddhav Thackeray’s residence. After holding a long meeting with them, Uddhav arranged for a discussion with Fadnavis who is also currently holding the Home department’s portfolio.
A notable fact is that Shiv Sena’s own leader Deepak Kesarkar is the Minister of State for Home department. Still, Uddhav preferred to meet Fadnavis. The move comes at a time when Shiv Sena has pitched for a different Home Minister.
“All those who try to hurt the police should be punished severely and immediately. These sisters of mine (referring to wives of policemen) have made several demands before the CM. One is that the cases of assault on policemen should be heard on a fast-track basis. The CM will now talk to the Chief Justice of Maharashtra for the recruitment of judges in fast track courts, so that they can work efficiently. A committee has been announced by the CM to look into the demands of the police. It will consist of members of policemen’s families,” Uddhav said.
Meanwhile, there is unhappiness in Raj’s camp. “Raj sahib has taken up the issues of our policemen for years now. He has talked about the housing woes of the police, their erratic work schedules. He has always been sympathetic towards their problems. But now other parties smell political opportunity in this,” a party leader said.
In an attempt to spread sensitivity among people about the overworked policemen and policewomen, the MNS also made a different appeal to the Ganesh mandals. The party has appealed that the Ganesh mandals should give the opportunity of performing the puja of the deity to the policeman on duty at the place. “He cannot remain present for the Ganpati in his house, as he stands guard for you. Let him at least get involved in the festival through you,” the message circulated by the party has stated.
Meanwhile, the wives of policemen have decided to form an association to press for their long-pending demands. “The policeman is your protector, please don’t harm him. Please remember that someone waits for him in his house. Co-operate with him. He is there to protect the law of the land and to protect you. Please don’t abuse him,” Manasi Bhosle, wife of a police constable, made a fervent appeal to people.