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Sena MPs ‘force’ fasting Muslim staffer to eat chapati, Maharashtra Sadan says sorry

‘If you keep abusing, will someone not slap?’ says Mumbai-South MP Arvind Sawant, who argued that MPs have been allotted tiny rooms.

A file photo of the Sadan. The Shiv Sena MPs wanted Maharashtrian food, said they were insulted, and allegedly vandalised Resident Commissioner’s office.  Source: Express Archive A file photo of the Sadan. The Shiv Sena MPs wanted Maharashtrian food, said they were insulted, and allegedly vandalised Resident Commissioner’s office. Source: Express Archive

A group of around 11 Shiv Sena MPs, apparently angry over not being served Maharashtrian food, allegedly forced a Muslim catering superviser who was fasting for Ramzan to eat a chapati at the new Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi last week.

Within hours, IRCTC, the Indian Railways subsidiary that was catering for the Sadan, stopped all operations in protest, and complained in writing to the Maharashtra Resident Commissioner, saying the employee, Arshad Zubair S, had been “deeply pained and hurt… as religious sentiments are attached”.

The Resident Commissioner subsequently apologised to IRCTC and Arshad, and asked to “meet him personally (to) convey the sentiments of our government”.

The Maharashtra government has said it is examining the matter, and has promised “appropriate action”. The MPs have said that they were “insulted” at the Sadan, but claimed that the allegations against them were “wrong”.

In an email sent to Resident Commissioner Bipin Mallick on July 17, IRCTC Deputy GM Shankar Malhotra wrote: “Today there was a meeting of 12-15 MPs at New Maharashtra Sadan in the Press Conference Hall in which they were complaining about the services of Electrical, civil, housekeeping, catering, etc. which they are facing from the last several months in the premises of Maharashtra Sadan.

“The entire delegation along with the electronic media and Manager, Maharashtra Sadan, walked inside the public dining hall and started throwing chafing dish covers in the buffet area. They also issued physical threats to the kitchen and service staff while using highly objectionable language. The specific incident happened with the Resident Manager/IRCTC, Sh. Arshad who was forced to consume full chapati whilst he was having fast on the eve of Ramzan. The concerned has been deeply pained and hurt on this account as religious sentiments are attached.”

Malhotra said that the MPs “demanded [a] Maharashtrian caterer in the NMS [New Maharashtra Sadan]. It may be noted that this is not the first time that such an incident has happened. We have received no support from the NMS management in this regard.”

In his complaint, which was forwarded to Mallick, Arshad said, “All the guests along with media reporters and staffs of Maharashtra Sadan got into kitchen where I was getting the orders prepared. They caught me and put the chapati into my mouth. I was wearing a formal uniform set as prescribed by IRCTC and everybody in the panel also knew my name as ‘Arshad’ as I was wearing the name tag. Even then they inserted chapati in my mouth which caused my fast to break on the eve of Ramzan. I was hurt with the thing they have done as religious sentiments are concerned.”

Soon after the incident, IRCTC pulled out of work at the Sadan because of “instances of manhandling of staff, use of abusive language, discriminatory actions with regional and religious biases and veiled threats towards the personnel of IRCTC as well as the service provider”. The canteen at the Sadan is currently shut.

Mallick, the Resident Commissioner, sent a letter of apology to IRCTC, expressing “his shock” at the incident.

“I can understand the pain and the agony of your Resident Manager, Mr. Arshad who was forced to do something against his religious belief. On behalf of my state government, I convey sincere apology to Mr. Arshad for the indignation caused to him by a few Hon’ble MPs while he was performing his duties and rendering services for our government. I would like to meet him personally and convey the sentiments of our government,” Mallick said in the letter, which has been accessed by The Indian Express.

The Maharashtra Chief Secretary has been apprised of the incident. The letter sent to him names 11 Shiv Sena MPs: Sanjay Raut (Rajya Sabha), Anandrao Adsul (Amravati), Rajan Vichare (Thane), Arvind Sawant (Mumbai-South), Hemant Godse (Nashik), Krupal Tumane (Ramtek), Ravindra Gaikwad (Osmanabad), Vinayak Raut (Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg), Shivaji Adhalrao Patil (Shirur), Rahul Shewale (Mumbai-South Central) and Shrikant Shinde (Kalyan).

When contacted by The Indian Express, Chief Secretary J Saharia said, “There are allegations like this. We are examining the whole issue and appropriate action will be taken.”

MP Sanjay Raut said, “These are wrong allegations, someone is doing mischief. There are many problems with Maharashtra Sadan that have come up, but I don’t even stay there.”

An incident report filed by the manager of the Sadan said “the mob”, which included the MPs’ supporters and members of the media, damaged the Resident Commissioner’s office.

“The mob threatened to break the glass door of RC’s chamber in New Maharashtra Sadan, forced an employee to open the door, occupied the cabin and started shouting slogans etc. Thereafter, the mob broke the wall clock in RC’s cabin and wrote ‘Jai Maharashtra’ on the wall,” the report said.

Mumbai-South MP Arvind Sawant said, “I have been living there for the past two months, and have faced nothing but insults. There are so many rooms here for MLAs, Ministers of State and Secretaries, but all the MPs from Maharashtra have been boxed into tiny rooms. All of this, even as 4 MPs from Uttar Pradesh have larger rooms. Is this not an insult?”

Sawant added, “The food at the Sadan is terrible. It is run by the Railways people who know nothing about Maharashtrian food. If you go to Andhra Bhawan, you are served Andhra food, but here Railways people make the food. They even gave stale water. We wanted to sort these issues out amicably, and did not come with the intention of committing violence. But even on that day, the Resident Commissioner refused to meet us, and after a lot of delay, said that he had gone to receive the Chief Secretary at the airport. Is that not an insult? No tod phod happened at all, but we have been provoked in a sustained manner. Nobody was manhandled, but if you keep abusing, will someone not slap?

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