Shiv Sena on Thursday staged a protest against Shobha De for “insulting” Maharashtrian culture by opposing a government order on screening Marathi movies and demanded that she leave the state but the celebrated author remained unfazed, asserting she would continue to “speak up”.
After carrying a vitriolic editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ against De, Sena workers staged a demonstration before her Cuffe Parade residence in the heart of the town, alleging she had insulted the Maharashtrian culture through her sarcastic comments against the order in which she had aslo referred to the culinary choices of the people.
After Sena, a partner in the state’s BJP-led coalition government, RPI, another ally of the saffron combine, too held a protest in front of De’s house.
An unruffled De, however, said she would continue to “speak up” on such issues as it was her right guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Yes, certainly. I will continue to speak up. Our Constitution gives us all right to express our feelings until I am not abusing anyone and I have not abused any one,” she told reporters.
Dismissing suggestions that she was trying to grab attention, she said “I will not do anything irresponsibly. I am not a teenage who needs an attention.”
De, reacting to Maharshtra government’s controversial move to make it mandatory for multiplexes to screen Marathi films in the prime time slot, had earlier tweeted: “I love Marathi movies. Let me decide when and where to watch them, Devendra Fadnavis. This is nothing but Dadagiri.”
The BJP-Sena government had recently mandated multiplexes across the state to screen Marathi movies in the prime time 6-9 pm slot.
Facing flak for the order, the government today relaxed the norms and allowed the multiplexes to screen Marathi films between 12 noon and 9 pm.
The protesting Sena activists brought with them a tray of “vada pav” and “dahi misal” as De’s mocking tweet had said that Marathi delicacies will now be available in theatres instead of popcorn.
Reacting sharply to De’s comments, senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that no Marathi person would tolerate such statements.
“This is an insult of Marathi culture and we will give her a taste of Vada Paav and Dahi Misal by this evening. When you are so irked with Marathi cinema and culture, then why are you living here,” he said.
“Shobha De’s remarks are an insult to Maharashtra, Marathi language and culture. You are staying in Maharashtra, calling yourself a Maharashtrian and then speaking against Marathi films. I feel such people have no right to call themselves Maharashtrian… Why are you staying here, You can go and start your Page-3 culture wherever you want,” he said.
A stinging editorial in the `Saamna’ said had party founder Bal Thackeray not done “dadagiri” to preserve Marathi culture, De’s forefathers would “have been born in Pakistan” and she would have “attended Page-3 parties in a burqa”.
BJP, meanwhile, acted neutral, saying it was government’s obligation to protect Marathi culture and De had the “right to protest”. It also tried to play down Sena’s protest against her.
“She had been given the protection she deserves. I think it was the right of the government, in fact, obligation of the government to protect Marathi culture and it was also her right to protest. The protest from the political party concerned is not physically intimidating,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narasinha Rao said.
The Congress said the whole episode was outrageous and showed that the government “is probably not interested in governance”.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha tweeted: “The protests against @DeShobhaa by the Shiv Sena heralds the launch of election campaigning for the BMC elections. Ridiculous!”
Sena had on Wednesday sought to move a breach of privilege motion against the well-known novelist, taking objection to her tweet on Maharashtra government’s decision.
As the protesters gathered, De tweeted, “Police barricades are up ! I am feeling perfectly calm and safe ! Thank you..Mumbai Police.