A signboard carrying a Pakistani city’s name is the latest Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) target after Pakistani books, songs and comedians.
The owner of Karachi Sweets in Mulund has received a one-page note, written on MNS letterhead by local activist Rajendra Deshmukh, asking him to change the name of the shop or face the consequences.
The letter, a copy of which was shown to TOI, says, “We want to disassociate ourselves from anything related to Pakistan. Using Karachi name on an Indian signboard is inappropriate. We demand that the name of the shop be changed and the board removed. If you do not comply within 10 days, we (the MNS) will agitate.”
The shop owner spent a sleepless night after he received the letter on Wednesday. “We hail from Karachi. It was after Partition that we migrated to India and settled in military barracks and some of us were provided with accommodation in the Sindhi Colony in Mulund,” shop manager Vashu Punjabi said.
Karachi Sweets was as old as three decades and a “known brand” in the area, he said, adding, “We have a branch at Kopri Colony in Thane. It is not so easy to change a name overnight.”
However, MNS leader Shishir Shinde insists that the owner should change the shop’s name. “If big industrialists can change logos of their companies, why can’t this shop change its name? It will hurt Maharashtrian and Indian sentiments if the owner refuses to do so. Why stick to the old Pakistani name?”
The local police were informed but, instead of assuring protection, officials said it would be “better” if the shop changed its name and avoided any confrontation with MNS activists. The MNS shakha office is just 100 m from the shop.
Residents of the area share the shop manager’s fears. “Change of name could be misleading. Many may think that the original shop has shut down and they may stop going there,” one of them said.
However, the police have a different view. “We suggested that the owner should rename his shop as Mumbai Sweet House,” a Mulund police station officer said. “That will attract more customers to the shop.” Another similarly helpful suggestion came from the policemen who met the owner; they asked him to apply to the BMC’s shops and establishments department for a change of name on a priority basis.
Another officer admitted the police station had received a letter from the MNS, informing them about an agitation against the signboard. “We wanted to prevent a problem and advised the shop owner to take a quick decision on renaming the shop,” he said.
Inspector Subhash Kshirsagar denied officers had put any “pressure” on the shop owner. “We just asked him to take precautions. There is a major MNS rally in Thane on Saturday and activists are likely to pass by the shop. There may be some stone-pelting,” he said.
The pressure on Karachi Sweets is only the last in a long line of attempts to catch voters’ imagination
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