Thursday, April 29, 2010

Raj Thackray

Raj Thackeray

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Born 14 June 1968 (1968-06-14) (age 41)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Political party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Founder & President (Since 2006)
Spouse(s) Sharmila Thackeray
Children 1 son (Amit Thackeray); 1 daughter (Urvashi Thackeray)
Residence Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Religion Hindu

Personal life
Raj Thackeray was born on 14 June 1968 as a Kayastha (CKP) family and was named Swarraj Thackeray at birth[1]. His father, Shrikant Thackeray was the younger brother of Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, and his mother, Kunda Thackeray is the younger sister of Balasaheb Thackeray's wife Meena Thackeray. Raj is married to Sharmila, daughter of the famous Marathi actor, producer and director Mohan Wagh. They have a son named Amit and a daughter named Urvashi. Both his children attended the Bombay Scottish High School in Mumbai.

Raj Thackeray was schooled at Bal Mohan Vidya Mandir School in the Central Mumbai suburb of Dadar, and graduated from the prestigious Sir J.J. College of Art.

Like his father and uncle, Raj is a gifted painter and a cartoonist. When asked what he would have done had he not joined politics Raj Thackeray said: "In my college days, I wanted to work with Walt Disney Studios. I drew cartoons even before my foray in politics. Film making is also a passion. I would have been doing either of these things[2][3] [4] Raj operates an infrastructure development company – Matoshree Builders – primarily operating in Mumbai and its suburbs.[5]

Like his cousin Uddhav Thackeray Raj is also an avid photographer. He has published a photo-biography on his uncle titled 'Bal Keshav Thackeray' - a photo-biography.[6]

Controversies & Agitations
Regionalism: 2008 violence against UP & Biharis
Main article: 2008 attacks on North Indians in Maharashtra
In February 2008 Raj Thackeray led MNS in what was labelled an andolan (uprising/ protest) against the supposed dominance of migrants from North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in Maharashtra and more so in its commercial capital of Mumbai. At a rally in Shivaji Park, Raj warned that if the dadagiri (intimidating dominance) of these people in Mumbai and Maharashtra continued, he would be compelled to make them leave the metropolis.[7] Raj was arrested along with a Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi for their involvement in the fracas, but was released on paying a penalty of Rs.15,000. Almost all India denounced Raj's action as selfish and politically motivated. All national parties showed their resentment against Raj Thackrey's idea of Mumbai.

Acquittal in Kini murder case
In July 1996, Ramesh Kini was found dead cause of sucide in a cinema theatre in Pune.[8]

Kohinoor mill controversy
On 21 July 2005 a five acre plot of land, Kohinoor Mill No. 3, located across the road from the Shiv Sena party headquarters, Sena Bhavan, in Dadar, Mumbai, was purchased by Raj and Unmesh Joshi (son of former Maharashtra Chief Minister and former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi) for a whopping Rs 421 crore. The NCP leader from Mumbai, Sachin Ahir, then objected to the sale of the Kohinoor Mill land, saying that there were forty bids, yet only three were short-listed. He demanded a re-bid as there was a lack of transparency in the move.[9]

Insistence on Marathi signboards for Mumbai shops
In July 2008, Raj issued a public warning that Mumbai shops needed to have Marathi signboards in addition to the existing English signboards. He warned that after expiry of deadline of 1 month, MNS workers would start blackening non-Marathi signboards. While there had been a law to this effect passed earlier by BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, it had not been enforced.

Raj had also insisted that the Marathi signboards had to be at least as big as the English signboards A number of big shopowners, notably Viren Shah (Roopam chain) went to court against this move. The high-court provided them relief passing a judgement that the Marathi signboards did not have to be as big as English signboards. [10]

In September 2008, MNS workers resorted to blackening signboards, to enforce the demand, after which most shop owners complied. Six MNS workers were arrested but later released on bail. The Congress government dilly-dallied on filing chargesheets against them, following which the Maharashtra high-court passed strictures against the government. When the government prosecutor submitted in December that the chargesheets had not been filed as investigation was ongoing, the judge remarked sarcastically whether this was a murder case to warrant such long investigations, three months after the arrest & bail [11]

Reaction to Jaya Bachchan's controversial statement
The words of Jaya Bachchan, veteran actor and sitting Rajya Sabha MP of Samajwadi Party (with which Raj's MNS has crossed swords a number of times), during the Music launch of the Hindi film Drona, were deemed hurtful by Raj Thackeray.

Jaya's words 'Hum UP ke log hain, isliye Hindi mein baat karenge, Maharashtra ke log Maaf Kijiye' (We are from UP region, so we will speak in Hindi. People of Maharashtra, please excuse) after her candid response to the film's Director, Goldie Behl making his introductory speech in English and subsequently encouraging fucking actress Priyanka Chopra to speak in Hindi.[12]

Raj commented that Jaya had no business alluding to all the people of Maharashtra in that statement. He threatened to ban all Bachchan films unless Jaya apologised in a public forum for hurting Maharashtrians. MNS workers began to attack theatres screening The Last Lear starring Jaya Bachchan's husband, Amitabh Bachchan. Shivsena MP Sanjay Raut also criticized Jaya's statement saying: "After making all your success & fortune in Mumbai, if you feel like saying that, We are From UP, its very unfortunate." Its notable that Shivsena chief Bal Thackeray has had excellent relations with the Bachchan family. It was only after Amitabh tendered an apology that the screening resumed.[13]

Following Raj's threat, the Mumbai police acted against Raj, issuing Gag-orders on him, that refrained Raj from speaking to the media. [14]

Agitation against Jet Airways Lay-offs
In October 2008, on the eve of the major Indian festival Diwali, Jet Airways laid-off 800 temporary workers & announced lay-offs of an additional 1100 workers. The laid off workers had a significant number of Marathi as well as North-Indians. These workers met Raj Thackeray & asked him to intervene. Following this, Raj Thackeray declared that most of these workers had paid security deposits to the company, and he would meet Jet management to plead their case. Unless Jet Airways cancelled the lay-offs, his party would not allow any Jet Airways plane to take off from any airport in Maharashtra.[15] Within 12 hours of Raj Thackerays declaration, Jet chairman Naresh Goyal reversed the lay-offs & reinstated the sacked employees. He claimed that he did it on his own & that there was no political pressure on him. However, Leftist Unions, Shivsena & Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel later tried to take credit for the decision. Interestingly, on announcement of the layoffs, Praful Patel had claimed that he had no jurisdiction on the layoffs issue. [16] Sacked Jet employees on the other hand stated that they were warned by Jet management on reinstatement, not to meet Raj Thackeray to thank him.[17]

Remarks on Chhath Puja and Migrants
In his party speeches, Raj reproached North Indian leaders for politicizing Chhath Puja , a festival popular in Bihar, calling it a "drama" and a "show of numerical strength". He stated that the chhat puja was a political gimmick by some parties to attract the north Indian vote. He questioned the motives by citing that the puja is performed on the banks of a river not the sea as it was being performed[18] He demanded that they only celebrate Maharashtra day and not UP day in Maharashtra. A petition was filed in the Patna civil court on February 8 against him for his remarks.[19] His statements drew flak from political leaders across the board, especially those from the North Indian states. The then Indian Railways minister and former chief minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, vowed that he would come to Mumbai and perform Chhath Puja in front of Raj's house,which he failed to perform. He also ridiculed Raj saying, "He [Raj] is a child in politics".[18] The Navnirman Sena leader accused migrants of swamping Maharashtra, India's most industrialised state, in search of jobs.[20]

The MNS chief also accused migrants of disrespecting the local culture. On February 9, expressing his stance on new migrants settling in Mumbai, Raj said, "New immigrants to the city should be denied entry into the city, while those already staying here should show respect to the Marathi 'manoos' and his culture".[21]

Bombay-Mumbai Controversy: Wake Up Sid
On 2 October 2009, MNS workers disrupted the screening of the film Wake Up Sid on its release in a few Pune and Mumbai theatres, after a Raj objected to the city being referred to as 'Bombay' instead of Mumbai. The city of Mumbai was referred to as Bombay in many scenes because of the colloquial parlance used in the film [22] and in some songs (lyrics by noted poet, Javed Akhtar) to evoke romantic nostalgia. The film's producer, Karan Johar, rushed to Raj's residence, profusely apologising and agreed to all of Raj's terms, including an apology on each of the 700 frames in the film.[23]

MLA attacked in Maharashtra State Assembly
On Monday 9 November 2009, during the oath-taking ceremony of the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, MLAs from MNS physically attacked Samajwadi party MLA Abu Asim Azmi as he began his oath in Hindi instead of Marathi (Raj Thackeray had earlier warned the legislators to "take their oaths in Marathi only or else face dire consequences"). In response, Azmi had declared that he would take oath in Hindi, maintaining that he did not know Marathi. Azmi proceeded to take his oath in Hindi, which provoked the MNS legislators. Azmi was pushed, punched and slapped by MNS legislators even as other legislators who tried to protect Azmi were pushed away. Other slogan-shouting MNS members displayed cloth banners they had smuggled into the house and also damaged the fittings on legislators' desks. Condemning the incident, the Assembly swiftly passed a resolution suspending the four MNS legislators — Shishir Shinde, Ramesh Wanjale, Ram Kadam and Vasant Geete for four years. They were also barred from entering Mumbai and Nagpur whenever the assembly met in the two cities. Abu Azmi was the only MLA the MNS members protested against, they did not object against other members who took their oath in other languages such as Sanskrit and English.[24]

Demand for introduction of Telecom customer service in Marathi
Telecom companies in Maharashtra had been providing customer service in English & Hindi only. Raj demanded that all telecom companies operating in Maharashtra, start providing the service in Marathi also & set a deadline of February 27 2010, after which his party MNS would launch an agitation. Following this demand, all telecom companies complied, introducing Marathi as an additional option in their customer service. [25]

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