A few hours after a bunch of men, claiming to be MNS activists, attacked Bhojpuri singer and actor Manoj Tiwari’s residence, the star spoke to Salil Deshpande
What is your take on the events of the last few days ?
It’s as sad as it is shocking. We have been living here for years. It’s not as if 60 lakh North Indians arrived in Mumbai overnight. So, these sudden unprovoked protests are result of the wicked mindsets of handful of people. I condemn such acts.
Maharashtra and Maharashtrians have always stepped forward, even laid their lives to protect the unity and sovereignty of this country. So, when a bunch of individuals talk of attacking their fellow Indians, one can’t help but question their patriotism. It’s difficult for me to say with authority as to who is behind these attacks. Raj Thackeray has denied of having anything to do with the attack on Amitabh Bachchan’s house.
It’s possible that Tuesday’s attack at my home was similarly orchestrated by mischief makers to ruin his name. CM has called and assured me of security. I am grateful for that, but what about the security of lakhs of my brothers who are living in Mumbai? Tuesday’s attack was directed against me as a Bhojpuri artiste. People don’t realise what efforts we are takingto keep the Bhojpuri industry afloat.
You received threat calls. Your house was attacked. How long do you this will go on?
I don’t remember community protests dragging on for so long. Sporadic incidents did take place in the past, but nothing on this scale. Unfortunately, these protests have infuriated people in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. So far, they are giving vent to their anger on statues and effigies. But there are Maharashtrians living in those states too. We are doing our best to ensure that they are not harmed.
If we leave recent developments aside, have you ever faced discrimination?
Quite the contrary, on January 13, I shared the stage with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and both of us felt there was absolutely no reason for north Indians to feel like outsiders. Remarks from Uddhav were received warmly by the north Indian community here. It’s a myth that we favour only those leaders who hail from UP or Bihar. That’s something people don’t realise. If Raj Thackeray does good work for us, we will be more than happy to support him.
You received threats before the rally started at Shivaji Park.Then, the callers warned me against attending the rally.Is that when it all started?
On December 31, I was attacked while I was at a Congress function at Santa Cruz. Some people hurled stones at me, one of which caught me just below the eye. At that time, we were clueless, wondering why anyone would do such a thing. Now, it adds up. It seems that people behind that attack are the same who vandalised my house. Obviously, there are a few people who are not happy seeing North Indians come together.
You went there despite the threats?
Yes. I am an artiste and I went as one.
Despite knowing you were literally a stone’s throw from Raj Thackeray’s house?
I discovered only today that Thackeray lives right opposite Shivaji Park. Nevertheless, I would have done the same, even if I would’ve known about it beforehand. I would love to resolve all issues face-to-face.
And what would you say?
I would ask if he really is behind all this. And if he is, I would want him to tell me where I or the Bhojpuri community has erred.
Is your family scared after these threats and the attack? You have a little girl…
She doesn’t know about it. She hasn’t been told anything at all. My wife is a bit worried. But our concept of family is much bigger. We are as worried about the safety of our fellow North Indians living in Mumbai.
Do you think migration has created problems for the city?
Migration is not as big a problem as politics. We blame those who are doing everything possible to become leaders of the North Indian community. Some of these ‘leaders’ are saying some terrible things. Their language often is extremely crude and inflammatory. Community events like Chhath Puja, UP Divas have been politicised.
Have you contemplated leaving Mumbai?
No. Not even for a moment. In fact, people have been calling in after the attack to lend their support and solidarity. And a lot of them are Maharashtrians.