Workers of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have once again resorted to violence. MNS workers were arrested by the police after they assaulted fruit vendors and vandalised their carts for allegedly opposing farmers from rural Maharashtra for selling their products.
The fruit vendors —said to be North Indians — were attacked for not allowing a family of farmers from Nashik to sell their produce in the open market on Wednesday morning at Amrut Nagar in Ghatkopar. According to sources in MNS, the workers intervened after the farmers’ family approached a local MNS leader, Vibhag Pramukh, Ganesh Bhagat for help.
One of the local MNS leaders, who did not wish to be named, said, “Bhagat first asked the vendors how this would affect them as their business starts after 4pm and the farmers were selling their products in the morning and would would wind up before 3pm. But they were adamant about not allowing the farmers.”
A police complaint was registered against the MNS workers and also against the farmer at the Ghatkopar police station. Bhagat, along with the other workers and the farmer, were arrested and later released on bail.
Following their release, the workers visited Raj Thackeray’s residence to brief him on the issue. Sources said Thackeray has asked them to continue with such agitations if Maharashtra farmers are being prevented from selling their produce in the market.
The MNS had faced criticism in 2008 when it resorted to violent agitations against north Indian vendors and taxi drivers while furthering their agenda.
Meanwhile, after the state cabinet cleared a proposal to allow farmers to sell their produce outside the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets in the state, various farmers have been selling fruits and vegetables to citizens in Mumbai. While the modalities of its implementation are yet to be formulated, the farmers are finding it difficult to look for a place to sell them. Further, even the civic body is yet to implement the hawkers’ policy, which will help manage hawkers in the city.
A video of the incident which was aired by television channels spurred up the issue of MNS’s anti-migrant agenda. The police, however, stated that the altercation was purely over occupying space for hawking. “The issue does not pertain to migrants. The fruit seller and few other women appealed to the farmer to park his vehicle a bit ahead after which there was an altercation between them,” said Bhimdev Rathod, assistant commissioner of police, Ghatkopar division. The Ghatkopar police registered a case against MNS workers under sections for rioting and assault and arrested five accused in this regard who were later released on bail. The farmer has also been booked.
NCP alleged that the BJP was inciting the MNS to split Marathi votes in the coming civic polls. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that MNS had done this at the behest of the ruling BJP. “BJP wants to divide Marathi votes in the coming elections and thus it is encouraging MNS to involve in such acts,” Malik said adding, “Raj Thackeray meets CM Devendra Fadnavis every fortnight and the MNS chief also enjoys very good rapport with Union minister Nitin Gadkari.”