THE Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) drive against unauthorised hawkers, a large percentage of who are perceived to be migrants from other states, turned violent on Saturday after the party’s Malad divisional head Sushant Malavade was grievously injured in a clash with hawkers. The 33-year-old Malavade sustained a fracture in his right hand along with injuries on the head. He was admitted to the Janhvi nursing home in Malad West.
The matter also took on political overtones as the MNS claimed the hawkers had been incited by the Congress to take on its men.
The incident occurred around 3 pm, not long after Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam held a meeting with hawkers near the Malad station.
“Today, under the Malad police jurisdiction, around 3.15 pm MNS workers and hawkers clashed near the Malad railway station. Four MNS workers were injured. Four-five persons have been detained by the police and an FIR lodged. Heavy police bandobast has been made at the spot,” said a Mumbai Police spokesperson.
Following the September 29 stampede at the Elphinstone Road railway station, the MNS has been demanding that the authorities act against hawkers and others encroaching foot overbridges and the area around the entrance to railway stations. MNS president Raj Thackeray had delivered an ultimatum to railway and civic officials, demanding that the hawkers be removed by mid-October or his party workers would undertake the task themselves.
On Saturday afternoon, after Nirupam’s meeting with hawkers at Hanuman Mandir, Malad (West), the hawkers, mostly vegetable vendors, resumed their trade outside the station. A little later, as MNS workers tried to clear the area of hawkers, several hawkers surrounded five-six MNS workers, including Malavade, who was seriously injured. “He is stable and conscious. We are going to conduct a CT scan on him to see if there is serious injury to the head,” said a treating doctor from the nursing home.
Sandip Deshpande, MNS general secretary, said, “The attack on our workers happened five minutes after Nirupam’s meeting with the hawkers.”
Yashwant Killedar, MNS zonal head for Dadar region, alleged Nirupam incited the workers during the meeting. “We have been asking the hawkers to steer away from the station area for sometime now. But today when our workers went to them, they picked up iron rods to beat them up. At the meeting, Nirupam encouraged the hawkers to retaliate. How else did the hawkers have iron rods with them? They were clearly prepared for this. We will ensure Nirupam pays for today’s incident,” said Killedar.
Meanwhile, Nirupam alleged the government supported the MNS’ anti-encroachment drive, instead of acting against hooliganism.
“The CM himself has joined hands with Raj Thackeray to unleash these workers against the hawkers, who are predominantly from North Indian states. He has some political interests behind this movement. The MNS hooliganism must come to an end,” said Nirupam.
Nirupam has been strongly opposing the MNS’ drive against the hawkers. “It is not for the MNS to decide if the hawkers are legal or illegal. The activists come and beat them up and the police only stand and watch. What can the defenceless hawkers do in this situation? Today, 10-15 workers came to beat them at Malad. When the police did not react, the hawkers took the law into their own hands,” added Nirupam.
Meanwhile, after the Malad incident, the MNS went on to evict hawkers in Dadar. “We cleared seven to eight hawkers near Plaza Cinema at Dadar in the evening,” added Killedar.