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Maharashtra Loudspeaker Row: Hundreds Of MNS Workers Detained After Raj Thackeray's Call To Play Hanuman Chalisa

Earlier, Raj Thackery had given an ultimatum for loudspeakers to be removed from mosques in Maharashtra by May 3.

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File photo of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray

Hundreds of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers were detained by police across Maharasthra on Wednesday a day after party chief Raj Thackeray urged people to play Hanuman Chalisa if they hear azan from mosques' loudspeakers. The detentions happened in Mumbai, Pune, Thane, and Nashik. 

Earlier, Raj Thackery had given an ultimatum for loudspeakers to be removed from mosques in Maharashtra by May 3. He gave the call to play Hanuman Chalisa after the ultimatum got over.

In Mumbai, a number of MNS workers gathered outside Thackeray's residence were detained. In Pune and neighbouring Pimpri Chinchwad, 200 workers and party functionaries were detained, while 12 party activists were arrested in Thane. 

While workers were detained in Mumbai outside Thackeray's home, party functionaries Sandeep Deshpande and Santosh Dhuri managed to quickly leave from the spot in a vehicle when a police team tried to catch them. A female police constable fell down while taking the action against MNS workers. 

Deshpande and Dhuri were earlier served notices under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) Section 149 (for preventing cognisable offences). After meeting Raj Thackeray on Wednesday, Deshpande came out and was speaking to reporters when a police team came towards him and tried to take him into custody. However, Deshpande quickly sat in an SUV and left from the spot.

Heavy police security was deployed in Mumbai in the wake of Thackeray's call for "silencing" loudspeakers atop mosques. Police deployment outside Thackeray's residence 'Shivtirth' was also enhanced and barricades were placed on the road for smooth traffic movement. The police detained some other MNS workers and took them to the Shivaji Park police station in a private taxi, as per an official.

In Pune, a total of 11 MNS workers and office-bearers, including the party's state secretary Ajay Shinde, were detained as a precautionary measure after they came out of the Khalkar Maruti temple in the city after performing 'maha aarti' and recital of Hanuman Chalisa, according to the police. 

Pune police commissioner Amitabh Gupta said, "We detained a total of 58 party workers and party functionaries under relevant sections of Bombay Police Act. As adequate police bandobast was deployed in the city, no law and order situation arose anywhere."

Before being detained, Shinde told reporters that "maha aartis" and recitation of the Hanuman Chalisa were being done at various places in the city, as per directions of MNS chief Raj Thackeray.

"We performed the 'maha aarti' and recited Hanuman Chalisa at the Khalkar Maruti temple," said Shinde.

Meanwhile, another senior police official said most of the mosques in Pune refrained from playing the early morning "azaan" on loudspeakers, following the Supreme Court guidelines. 

There was no incident of playing the Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers near mosques in Pune during the morning 'azaan' time, as per an official. He added that the police had held discussions with people from both sides and received a positive response, hence there was no need for any strong action so far.

In Pimpri Chinchwad, around 160 MNS workers were detained as a preventive measure, its police commissioner Ankush Shinde said.

Sainath Babar, Pune unit president of the MNS, said that at 17 places in the city, 'maha aarti' and recitation of Hanuman Chalisa was performed. He accused the state government of detaining the protesting party workers using forceful means.

In Thane, 12 activists and office-bearers of the MNS were arrested by Chitalsar and Kasarwadavali police as a preventive measure. They were later presented in a court, which ordered their release on a personal bond. They included district chief of the students' wing of the MNS Sandeep Pachange. The court ordered them to mark their presence at local police station everyday for the next 13 days, failing which they will have to pay Rs 15,000 fine.

In Nashik city, police took preventive action against a total of 416 persons under various sections of the CrPc, as per an official. He added that four cases were filed against MNS office-bearers and activists, including at Bhadrakali police station in Nashik, where five activists were booked under section 188 of the IPC and section 135 of Maharashtra Police Act for violating the police commissioner's orders. 

(With PTI inputs)

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