Amravati MP Navneet Rana and her husband, MLA Ravi Rana, were arrested by Mumbai police from their home in Khar on Saturday evening, hours after the couple had cancelled their plan to recite the Hanuman Chalisa outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s private residence ‘Matoshree.’
Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana are independent lawmakers from Maharashtra’s Vidarbha area.
According to the police, the couple were charged for violating IPC section 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintaining harmony) and section 135 of the Mumbai Police Act (violation of prohibitory orders of police).
To minimise congestion outside ‘Matoshree,’ police have strengthened security and installed barricades on the road leading to the Thackeray mansion. Police were also stationed outside the couple’s flat after Shiv Sena activists staged rallies and challenged the pair to leave their home.
The couple had received a notification from Mumbai police on Friday, telling them not to ‘disrupt the city’s law and order situation’. In addition to ‘Matoshree,’ the police have beefed up security at ‘Varsha,’ Uddhav Thackeray’s official mansion in south Mumbai.
The pair, however, said they were undaunted by the Shiv Sena’s wrath and the Mumbai Police’s notice, and that they were sticking to their plan. “Shiv Sena workers were told by Maharashtra’s Chief Minister to heckle us. The barriers are being shattered. I’m going to walk outside and recite Hanuman Chalisa at ‘Matroshree’, I’m saying it again,” Navneet Rana said.
Ravi Rana opined that Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has strayed from the Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s ideology. He added that the CM was misusing his power.
This whole matter was set in motion by MNS Chief Raj Thackeray’s statement where he called for a ban on azaan loudspeakers in mosques in the state in his Gudi Padwa Rally, and had mentioned that his party would play Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques if the state government did not remove mosque loudspeakers before May 3.
Reacting to this, Nashik Police Commissioner Deepak Pandey passed an order that playing Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers in Nashik district was banned within 100 m radius of mosques and within 15 minutes before and after the Azaan. He also said that permission has to be taken for playing Hanuman Chalisa or bhajan on loudspeakers anywhere. As per legal analysts, this is an extreme step against Hindus and the practice of Hindu religion.
After Raj Thackeray raised this issue, Maharashtra government seems to have woken up. The home department has decided to implement earlier court orders on the use of loudspeakers at religious sites, and the state government has said it will now make it mandatory for religious sites to seek permission for using loudspeakers. Why these court orders were lying unimplemented till now, is a question the MVA govt has chosen not to answer.
However, it is ridiculous to brand a religious activity like chanting of Hanuman chalisa, like the Ranas proposed to do, to be in contravention of and violating section 153A of the Indian Penal Code. This show clear failure of law and order machinery of the Maharashtra state and an overt attempt to crack down on Hindu religious activities.
Article 25 says “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.” The couple chanting Hanuman chalisa outside CM Uddhav Thackeray’s house wouldn’t have violated any of the conditions laid down under the provisions of the constitution. Such arbitrary arrests are not only unconstitutional but also against equity, justice and good conscience.