Veeral Dholakia (30), a member of Swabhiman, a non-governmental organisation led by MLA Nitesh Rane, died during a police lathi charge outside the civic headquarters on Thursday.
Dholakia was part of a protest staged by Swabhiman against the 15 per cent water cut imposed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on residential consumers.
It was not immediately clear if Dholakia died of an injury or of a heart attack suffered during the lathi charge.
Nitesh is the son of state Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, who recently tried unsuccessfully to get a Congress mayor installed. The Shiv Sena candidate, Shraddha Jadhav, trounced the Rane-backed Priscila Kadam.
The protest, ostensibly non-political, tapped into the public resentment against the water crisis caused by a deficient monsoon and the lack of planning.
Doctors at G.T. Hospital, where Dholakia was rushed after he collapsed, said there were no injuries on his body. His family, though, claimed to have seen the police beating him up on television. “It was his birthday,” said a close friend.
“[Dholakia] was brought here dead. We can’t ascertain the cause of death until an autopsy is done,” said Dr A.V. Kulkarni, superintendent of G.T. Hospital.
The protestors wanted to meet civic officials. When the police stopped them, allowing only Nitesh and five others in, the protest turned violent.
“In the lathi charge that followed, Dholakia began to experience chest pains and began walking towards G.T. Hospital. We heard later that he succumbed to a heart attack,” said AddlCP (South) K. Padmanabhan.