Pune police sanctions Owaisi meet within ‘closed doors’Pune: Amid high drama and eleventh-hour theatrics, the Pune police on Wednesday finally sanctioned a meeting on the Muslim reservation issue in which Hyderabad-based AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi participate.
However, mindful of Mr. Owaisi’s controversial and provocative speeches in the past and noting the threat posed by the right-wing Shiv Sena, the police imposed a number of stringent constraints on the meeting, which witnessed formidable deployment across the city.
Earlier, the Pune police shot off a notice to Mr. Owaisi, which was dramatically read out to the MIM leader at the start of his noontime press conference in the city.
The notice deemed that the meeting, called the ‘Muslim Arakshan Parishad’ and organized by the Maharashtra Action Committee and Mulniwasi Muslim Manch, be held in a closed hall and with a restricted audience of only 2,000 people.
The police further warned Mr. Owaisi to refrain from giving an address that might stoke religious, linguistic or communal tension. They further proscribed live telecasting of the event and directed organisers to begin the meeting at 4 p.m. and end it by 6 p.m.
“I am used to notices and bans being served on me. But why this discrimination against the MIM and not against any other political party? This is not a healthy democratic practice,” said Mr. Owaisi during the press conference.
“I have not come here to inflame communal tensions or hurt the religious sentiments of any community. This was a meeting to address the Muslim reservation issue in which other noted social activists and speakers from all communities and religions will be participating,” he said.
The police had rejected the initial choice of the open-air venue at Golibar Maidan where Mr. Owaisi was due to make his speech. The meeting eventually took place within the closed environs of the Kausar Baug Hall in the city’s Kondhwa area amid high security.
In order to preempt trouble from the Sena, the police, prior to the meeting, rounded up scores of Shiv Sainiks, placing them in preventive custody.
The Sena had indicated they would protest if the police sanctioned the meeting and if Mr. Owaisi spoke on the occasion, irrespective of the choice of venue.