Mumbai: MNS chief Raj Thackeray was today detained before being released during his party’s uncharacteristically peaceful ‘Rasta Roko’ agitation against toll collection across Maharashtra after receiving an invitation for talks with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Known for his strong-arm tactics, the MNS boss was detained at Chembur with his supporters when he was proceeding to the Vashi toll plaza in Navi Mumbai to enforce the road blockade agitation, which had sparked fears of violence.
However, in complete departure from its earlier strategy, which saw scores of toll plazas being vandalised and burnt down across the state over the last fortnight, MNS workers took to streets but largely shunned violence.
Unspecified number of MNS workers and supporters were detained in Mumbai suburbs, Pune and Thane but the protesters did not go beyond disrupting traffic, burning and deflating tyres.
Raj, who has been demanding transparency in collection of toll, left his Dadar home with some MLAs and supporters for Vashi but his vehicle was stopped on Eastern Express Highway at Sion, where he was made to sit in a police vehicle which brought him to RCF police station in Chembur.
He was under detention at RCF police station for a couple of hours before being let off. Police had earlier said he was arrested for violation of section 149 of CrPC under which a notice was issued to him yesterday warning against participating in the agitation.
Section 149 CrPC empowers a police officer to take action to prevent occurrence of a cognizable offence.
“Raj Thackeray was detained for nearly two hours before being let off,” Additional Police Commissioner Pravin Salunkhe said.
Before walking out of the police station, Thackeray asked his party workers to maintain calm and abjure violence.
“Our intention is not to cause trouble to people but to ensure that the government takes note of our demand. When I was inside (the police station), the Chief Minister called me and asked me to meet him tomorrow at 9 AM at Sahyadri guest house. I will meet the CM and put forward our demands,” he said.
Rejecting government’s offer for talks, Thackeray had yesterday announced his party will go ahead with the stir, raising fears of violence, despite being served with a notice not to participate in the agitation.
Apprehending a major law and order problem, Maharashtra Police deployed over 1.8 lakh policemen, besides contingents of Rapid Action Force and State Reserve Police at toll booths and on highways.
Security was also beefed up at vital installations, including railway stations in the city and suburbs to prevent violence and vandalism.
Raj Thackeray is facing multiple cases for instigating party workers to vandalise toll plazas.