Dhananjay Desai, chief of fringe right-wing organisation Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), was arrested in Ahmednagar Monday for allegedly threatening to disrupt a meeting organised to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). Desai is out on bail for allegedly murdering an IT professional, Mohsin Shaikh, in 2014.
According to police, Desai was taken into preventive custody after Saheban Jahagirdar, NCP’s district minority affairs wing head, wrote to District Police Superin-tendent Sagar Patil apprehending that the HRS chief may foment trouble ahead of an inter-community protest, organised jointly by the Congress, the NCP and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, against the controversial legislation. The protest was scheduled at Eidgah Maidan located at the heart of Ahmednagar town at 5 pm on Monday.
Jahagirdar had reacted to some news articles published in a few local Marathi newspapers Monday, where Desai branded the protest as “treasonous” and its organisers “anti-national” and “traitors”. The articles also mentioned that Desai would present a memorandum to the District Collector at 11 am Monday, while his supporters would stage a counter-demonstration against the protest. “We apprehended trouble due to Desai’s threats and took him into preventive custody,” Patil said.
Inspector Vikas Wagh said the HRS chief was booked under the Bombay Police Act for carrying out an illegal demonstration outside the Collector’s office and granted bail later in the day. Wagh added Desai was released at 11 pm after the protest ended.
Jahagirdar said NCP MLA from Mumbra and Maharashtra housing minister Jitendra Awhad addressed the protest, which went off smoothly. While the organisers claimed that close to 25,000 people had attended the protest, Wagh estimated the turnout was between 3,000 and 4,000.
“We had made arrangements to accommodate up to 50,000 people at Eidgah Maidan and another ground adjacent to it. But a lot of people did not turn up because they are afraid of Desai’s reputation for causing divisions among communities and inciting violence,” Jahagirdar said.
In January last year, Desai was released on bail by the Bombay HC after he spent five years at Yerwada Jail as an undertrial for the murder of Shaikh in June 2014. Communal clashes had erupted in the city then over the alleged circulation of morphed pictures of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. A group of HRS activists, including Desai, had allegedly intercepted Shaikh and his friend Riyaz Ahmed Mubarak Shendure while they were returning home after offering prayers. Shaikh was attacked with hockey sticks and a concrete slab.
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