Two medical representatives, an event manager, a tour operator, a security supervisor and a daily wage labourer — these are the six Shiv Sena activists accused of attacking former BJP leader Sudheendra Kulkarni and painting his face black in Mumbai Monday. They were arrested Monday night, and later released on bail. On Tuesday, the six met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who “congratulated” them, a party spokesperson said.
Four of the six head different Sena shakhas in Mumbai. Almost all of them said the attack wasn’t personal, but was meant to send a signal to the Observer Research Foundation, which Kulkarni heads, for organising the launch of former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri’s book. The Indian Express tracks down the attackers.
‘I have participated in most Sena protests since I joined’
Gajanan Patil, 49, tour operator
Patil has been associated with the Sena for the last 22 years. For the last 14, he has been heading Shiv Sena shakha No. 168 at Antop Hill, a central Mumbai area with a large concentration of slums. The shakha (local office) is a 10-minute walk from Sudheendra Kulkarni’s residence in Sion’s Karma Kshetra Society, where he was attacked.
“We just knew we had to do something. We had tremendous frustration in our minds, especially since the organiser of the programme lived right in our backyard,” Patil said. A resident of Sion-Koliwada, Patil operates a travel agency. “We just made a few phone calls to each other before leaving, and then launched our protest,” Patil said.
Though his agency keeps him busy, he dedicates a large part of his day to party work, which he describes as “80 per cent social and 20 per cent political”. As shakha head, he is known to arrange free ambulance services and blood donation camps. “I have participated in almost every protest the Sena has called since I joined the party,” Patil, who has never contested elections, said. He does, however, help out during election campaigning.
Patil lives with his wife, a homemaker, a son who works with a private cotton processing firm, a daughter-in-law, and two daughters, who are currently pursuing higher education.
“This is not the first time the Sena has protested against Pakistani events in the city. Remember the time we dug up the Wankhede pitch before an India-Pakistan match? I wasn’t a part of the protest then, but that is exactly what I feel like today,” Patil said.
‘Throwing ink is a valid way to protest, it’s non-violent’
Prakash Husbe, 28, medical representative
Husbe has been a member of the Sena since he was 14. He now heads a shakha in Wadala. “We wanted to demonstrate our patriotism. But we couldn’t pelt stones. We couldn’t physically beat up the organiser. That would have caused him a lot of harm, physically,” said Husbe, the youngest of the six sainiks held for the attack.
Living in an adjacent neighbourhood, he is familiar with the other five, who hail from Sion-Koliwada-Matunga areas.
“Throwing ink is a valid way of recording protest and it was the most non-violent option. I got a call from a fellow Sena member and I reached the spot,” said Husbe.
His parents have also been Sena volunteers since decades. Husbe, who has a Bachelors’ degree in science, currently freelances as a medical representative marketing various new products of different pharmaceutical companies to hospitals, clinics and dispensaries. He lives in Wadala with his wife and parents.
“It was always Rashtra Bhakti (nation worship) and the Hindutva cause that attracted me towards the Sena. Even during the 1993 riots, common Maharashtrians like us were safe in our houses in our city only because of the Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray,” Husbe said.
“We didn’t get any directions from Uddhav ji”
Ashok Waghmare, 47, security supervisor
Waghmare has been a Sena volunteer for nearly 25 years. “The party high command had nothing to do with our protests yesterday. We didn’t get any specific directions from Uddhav Thackeray ji. We did what we did out of sheer patriotism,” Waghmare said.
About three months ago, he felt he had reaped the rewards of the hard work he put in for the party when he was made the head of shakha No. 167 in the Sion-Matunga area. Besides an active Sena volunteer, Waghmare works as a supervisor with a private security service.
In his short tenure as shakha head, Waghmare said he has focussed on reducing dengue and malaria cases in the area surrounding his ward through awareness campaigns and regular fumigation. Waghmare lives in Sion with his wife and two sons who are in college. “I joined Sena because it was the only party that strongly takes up the case of Hindutva. That has been my intention, too, ever since I became a sainik,” said Waghmare, a soft-spoken man who, like Patil, has never contested elections.
“We all worship Balasaheb Thackeray at home”
Samadhan Jugdhav, 34, event organiser
Jugdhav regularly takes party contracts and organises cultural events at colleges. “I have always supported and attended any programme held by the Sena. The party had anyway declared it would protest against any event involving a Pakistani personality. This was our form of protest,” said Jugdhav.
The 34-year-old lives in Shantinagar area of Wadala and heads shakha No. 171. He said he never needed to formally join the Sena. “My family is a complete Sena family. We all worship Balasaheb Thackeray at home. My induction into the Sena family was that way,” said Jugdhav, who has been involved in the party’s day-to-day social and political affairs at the local level since for more than 17 years.
Jugdhav lives with his wife, who has recently completed a Masters’ degree in Arts and is now preparing to appear for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission examination.
‘The party’s social work attracted me’
Venkatesh Nair, 38, medical representative
“How we did what we did on Monday is confidential,” said Nair, when asked if the assault on Kulkarni was planned. Nair, an office-holder for the Yuva Sena, is the most guarded of the six. “I can only give you basic details about me,” he said.
Nair is a medical representatives promoting pharmaceutical products manufactured by different companies. He joined the party 15 years ago as a sainik and is now a shakha adhikari (branch official) with the Yuva Sena.
“A senior Sena leader took me to a party branch once, and that’s when I started working for the party. It was the party’s social work that attracted me. Even in Yuva Sena, we are doing good work with Aaditya Thackeray saheb’s direction,” Nair said.
“He does whatever comes his way”
Dinesh Prasad, 32, daily wage labourer
Prasad is a daily wage labourer and takes up “odd jobs that comes to him for the day”, Sena members who know him said. He has been working with Gajanan Patil in Shiv Sena’s Antop Hill branch for several years and “takes orders from him”, they added. He also is associated with shakha No. 168, Antop Hill.