The Maharashtra government invoked sedition charges against MP Navneet Rana and her husband, MLA Ravi Rana, for spreading hate and dislike against the government and the chief minister, thereby challenging the writ of the state machinery, public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat told the magistrate's court before which the couple was produced, on 24 April.
The Ranas were booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, after they had announced their plan to chant Hanuman Chalisa outside Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree'.
However, the Ranas claimed that they had called off their plans to protest. The duo claimed that they were not under any kind of pressure or scared by the Maha Vikas Aghadi or the Shiv Sena, but were dropping their plans in honour of the PM's trip to Mumbai.
They applied for bail on 24 April, after being remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.
ANI quoted Defence counsel Rizwan Merchant as saying, “Hanuman Chalisa is nothing but praise of Lord Ram and Hanuman... the place where Hanuman Chalisa was supposed to be chanted was outside the house of people who claim to love Lord Ram; the question of wanting to chant Hanuman Chalisa should not be affecting them at all.”
“The public prosecutor was not able to show even a single word that was uttered allegedly by the Rana couple...Therefore, chanting Hanuman Chalisa cannot fall under section 153A... this entire case is bogus. They have a very strong feeling that they are standing on loose ground. They know of the possibility of release on bail & have thus prepared a 2nd FIR,” he said.
On Saturday morning, Shiv Sena workers protested outside the residence of the Ranas in Mumbai and also gathered outside the CM's house to stop the couple from going ahead with their plan.
Security had been stepped up outside 'Matoshree' in view of this.
MLA Rana claimed that the agitation was being withdrawn in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Mumbai on Sunday, to avoid any law-and-order situation from cropping up, reported IANS.
'Aim Was Fulfilled': Navneet Rana
Amravati MP Navneet Rana had said on Saturday, "Our aim was fulfilled, though Ravi Rana & I couldn't reach 'Matoshree.' Hanuman Chalisa, which was supposed to be chanted by us, was chanted by bhakts outside the CM's residence.
She had also said that Shiv Sena had become a party of goons.
"CM Uddhav Thackeray only knows how to file offences against people & put them behind bars. He's creating a Bengal-like situation in Maharashtra."
'Sena Workers Trying To Attack Our Residence'
Earlier on Saturday morning, the Shiv Sena workers broke barricades in their attempt to enter the residence of the Ranas. However, the police brought the situation under control and stopped them from going further.
“Police aren't allowing us to step outside our house. Shiv Sena workers trying to attack our residence... We've always considered 'Matoshree' as a temple... Uddhav Thackeray only seeking political gains,” said MLA Ravi Rana in his social media post.
The MP had accused the Maharashtra CM of ordering “Shiv Sena workers to heckle” them.
“They're breaking the barricades. I'm reiterating that I'll go outside and will chant Hanuman Chalisa at 'Matoshree.' CM only knows how to throw people in jail,” MP Rana told news agency ANI.
'Amravati's Bunty & Babli Tried to Create a Ruckus': Sanjay Raut
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut called MP Navneet Rana and MLA Ravi Rana the 'Bunty and Babli' of Amravati.
"For the last few days, some bogus Hindutvawadis tried to spoil the atmosphere in Mumbai - 'Matoshree' (CM residence), reciting 'Hanuman Chalisa'. Amravati's Bunty & Babli tried to create a ruckus," he was quoted as saying by ANI.
"There was a conspiracy to do something different at the CM's residence. BJP tried to attack by keeping a gun on their shoulders. Navneet and Ravi Rana are the enemies of Maharashtra and behind them is the former CM (Devendra Fadnavis)," he had added.
They Are Doing This at Someone's Behest, Say Sena Leaders
Raut said Shiv Sena is not afraid of President’s rule in Maharashtra, reported The Indian Express.
“I have just spoken with the CM (Uddhav Thackeray). We have gone beyond the President’s rule, CBI and ED. We don’t care about power. We are not born for power... Shiv Sena itself is a power... Some people have experienced it earlier,” Raut told the media in Nagpur, the report said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil said that Rana and her husband want to tarnish the state government's image and spoil the atmosphere.
"What's the need to chant Hanuman Chalisa outside 'Matoshree?' They can do it in their home. They're doing this at behest of somebody," Patil said, according to ANI.
Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai, speaking from outside 'Matoshree' said that the couple have challenged the law and order situation.
"They were prompted to do this by someone. Shiv Sena workers are here to protect 'Matoshree.' Police are taking care of the situation," he said.
"We are waiting, we'll keep Hanuman Chalisa in front of us. We're waiting to teach them a lesson," said Shiv Sena leader Kishori Pednekar outside 'Matoshree,' reported ANI.
Hitting out at the Sena, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar on Saturday said, "We want to question the Shiv Sena as to why they are against the chanting of Hanuman Chalisa."
Shiv Sena Accuses BJP of Plotting With Rana
Meanwhile, after spending about four hours at Matoshree, Thackeray left for Varsha, his official residence. He had urged the workers to go back to their homes.
“You all go home. Nobody will dare to come here. You all are here since the morning,” Thackeray was heard saying, However, the Sainiks said they would camp outside the house.
Shiv Sena leaders have accused the BJP of plotting a scheme with the Ranas to defame the party and destabilise the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
"If they want to recite the Hanuman Chalisa, they should do so in their homes. But if they decide to do stunts, then we will give them a befitting reply. Such attempts are being made by BJP's central leadership deliberately to defame the Shiv Sena and to destabilize the Maha Vikas Aghadi government," Vinayak Raut said earlier, addressing the media outside Matoshree.
BJP MLA Ashish Shelar retorted saying, "We want to question the Shiv Sena as to why they are against the chanting of Hanuman Chalisa. As far as MLA Ravi Rana is concerned, I won't speak on him, he's capable of answering on the issue."
'Shiv Sena Wants to Make Ravi Rana, Navneet Rana National Leaders': Devendra Fadnavis
Meanwhile, Devendra Fadnavis said that the Shiv Sena wanted to make Ravi Rana and Navneet Rana national leaders and that is why all this was going on there.
"Everyday, law and order situation is deteriorating but instead of looking into these issues, the state government is busy giving such statements."
"Rana couple said that they'll go & chant Hanuman Chalisa, if they would've gone to some corner & did that, neither news would have been made, nor would it have any effect, they gathered so many people, as if they're coming to attack people on streets," he added.
Mumbai Police Issues Notice to Rana
The Mumbai Police on Friday, 22 April, issued notice to Rana, directing them to not disturb the law and order situation in the state. Police personnel were deployed outside 'Matoshree,' in Bandra.
The Ranas had said that they would recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the CM's house on Saturday if he did not chant it on Hanuman Jayanti. Hanuman Jayanti was celebrated on 16 April.
Shiv Sena leaders had dared the couple to come to Mumbai to chant Hanuman Chalisa. Party Secretary and MP Vinayak Raut, MP Anil Desai and Yuva Sena secretary Varun Sardesai and a large number of Shiv Sainiks on Saturday morning, were gathered outside the CM's residence.
MNS Chief Raj Thackeray Issues Ultimatum
Political temperatures in the state heated up after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray said on 17 April that if the Maharashtra government failed to remove loudspeakers atop mosques by 3 May, Hanuman Chalisa would be played at a higher volume outside mosques.
While addressing a press conference on 17 April, Thackeray said:
"We don't want riots in Maharashtra. No one has opposed the offering of prayers. But if you (the Muslim community) do it on loudspeaker, then we'll also use loudspeakers for it. Muslims should understand that religion isn't bigger than the law. After 3 May, I'll see what to do."
Raj Thackeray has also written to Home Minister Amit Shah demanding the removal of loudspeakers from mosques.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut accused Thackeray of implementing the BJP's agenda.
"The issue of loudspeakers atop mosques could have been discussed with the government," he said. "But the intention was to create a law and order situation to fulfil BJP's wish for imposing the president's rule in the state."
(With inputs from ANI.)