Mumbai: Aggressive activists of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Tuesday briefly disrupted a scheduled media gathering addressed by the Vidarbha Rajya Andolan Samiti, which is fighting for carving out a separate state from Maharashtra.
When the media meet started, a group of Raj Thackeray's MNS led by Amey Khopkar, Sandeep Deshpande and others surrounded the dais and started shouting pro-united Maharashtra slogans.
They prevented the main speakers - former legislator Wamanrao Chatap, economist Shreenivas Khandewala and lawyer Nanda Parate - from speaking, waved MNS flags, and attempted to vandalise the venue.
"We will not allow you to raise the issue of a separate Vidarbha here. The people of the state wanted a united Maharashtra," Khopkar told the VRAS leaders.
The MNS, Shiv Sena and other parties are opposed to a separate Vidarbha and have campaigned for a united Maharashtra through their policies and politics.
Later, after the ruckus subsided, the VRAS resumed the media briefing and presented its arguments in favour of a separate Vidarbha state.
Chatap announced that VRAS would conduct a mock assembly session on October 3-4 in Nagpur where they would present a budget and highlight all the issues concerning Vidarbha in a systematic manner to press for the separate state.
Later, they would take out pro-Vidarbha long marches from six place in the region, which would culminate in Nagpur on December 5.
This would be in time for the upcoming Winter Session of Maharashtra Legislature which is usually held in the second capital, Nagpur in eastern Maharashtra, Chatap said.
Khandewale said the agitation would be continued in a peaceful manner till December 31, after which they would intensify the movement.
He recounted how Vidarbha, a region richly endowed with natural resources, has been consistently ignored for over 50 years by successive governments and chief ministers and it has been condemned to remain backward and underdeveloped.
Khandewale said that the VRAS has recently held a sit-in agitation outside the residence of Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari which he claimed was "a huge success" and showed public support for creating a separate Vidarbha.
The speakers said they were not against Maharashtra, but through the creation of Vidarbha, sought independent decision-making for the people of the sprawling region comprising 11 districts.
Later, criticising the MNS agitation, social worker and human rights activist Jatin Desai said if they wanted to have their say, they should organize a separate media gathering instead of disrupting a peaceful media conference in this manner.