Drawing parallels with the 2002 Gujarat riots, a Shiv Sena MP, who was allegedly one of the 11 MPs responsible for the violence at the New Maharashtra Sadan, said the “real reason” was being forgotten, just as “everyone forgot Godhra”.
“This is just like Godhra. Everyone forgot Godhra but only remembered what happened after that. Here too, everyone is talking about the incident, but no one is bothered about why it happened,” Shiv Sena MP Anandrao Adsul told The Indian Express, soon after a group of party MPs met Railways Minister D V Sadananda Gowda in Rail Bhawan on Wednesday.
Adopting a more conciliatory tone, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said in Aurangabad, “We are proponents of Hindutva but we don’t have hatred for other religions.” He added that the uproar over the incident was an “attempt to silence the party’s voice”.
The Sena MPs said they were provoked by the inadequate accommodation facilities and food arrangements. They claimed their “genuine grievances” regarding “poor quality” of food served by the IRCTC had been ignored for a long time.
Rajan Vichare, the MP from Thane who is seen in the TV footage, trying to force the IRCTC staffer to eat a chapati, said he did not know that the man was a Muslim. “Do you see the religion of a waiter when you admonish him for the food served? This is being wrongly portrayed against us,” he said, as other MPs like Arvind Sawant, Bhavana Gawali and Anil Desai supported him.
They refuted the IRCTC’s claim that the employee, Arshad Zubair S, was wearing a name tag on his uniform. “You see the footage and then tell me yourself,” said Vichare.
While a TV channel ran a footage that purportedly showed Arshad telling the MPs that “he was on fast”, Gawali said the employee had not said any such thing.
The MPs said the Maharashtra Resident Commissioner had refused to meet them or attend to their complaints. “The food could not be eaten and we had been asking for a solution. The rooms sometimes do not have water. There are many issues. But the Resident Commissioner was avoiding meeting us,” said Adsul.
They claimed they had come to meet Gowda on some other issue. Asked if Gowda had referred to the Sadan case, one MP said the minister assured them that the food served on trains would meet their approval.
Sources in the IRCTC said the main grievance of the MPs was that they were not served Maharashtrian food. “They wanted items like vada pav, sabudana khichdi and the like. Our staff told them that we did not have a cook for such items, so we were serving them North Indian cuisine,” said a senior IRCTC official.