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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Hawkers caught in the middle of political battle in Mumbai

While the MNS continues to attack hawkers at railway stations, Congress defends them and warns the party of retaliation

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2017 23:08 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times
MNS chief Raj Thackeray visited party worker Sushant Malawade, who was attacked by hawkers, at Oscar Hospital on Sunday.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray visited party worker Sushant Malawade, who was attacked by hawkers, at Oscar Hospital on Sunday.(HT )

The forcible eviction of hawkers near railway stations is snowballing into a major political controversy; it’s now being projected as a Marathi manoos versus North Indians tussle.

While Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena continues attacking hawkers, the Congress has warned that it will stand by the hawkers, who will retaliate against the MNS.

On Sunday morning, Raj Thackeray visited the hospital where MNS leader Sushant Malawade who was attacked with swords by the hawkers in Malad is currently admitted. By evening MNS workers attacked hawkers outside the Vashi station in Navi Mumbai.

Though Thackeray did not speak to the media, MNS workers who had gathered in large numbers called it a signal to continue the attacks on hawkers. Thackeray who was accompanied by his son Amit went to the hospital where Malawade was admitted to show his support and boost the morale of party workers.

Since October 21, the MNS has been targeting hawkers in the vicinity of railway stations, and it plans to continue this agitation, in the hope of using people’s anger and frustration with the Railways, following the stampede on the Elphinstone Road station foot-over bridge on September 29 that killed 23 commuters, to gain popularity. This comes after Raj Thackeray’s protest march following the stampede on October 5, when he warned the railway administration that his workers would evict hawkers MNS-style if they did not clear access to railway stations in 15 days.

“We will continue to evict hawkers. If the BMC and the railways don’t do the job, we will do it in our MNS style (read violent),” warned MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande.

Nitesh Rane, son of Narayan Rane and Congress legislator, tweeted that bashing up of Maharashtrian by an unauthorised hawker will not be tolerated. Rane, also visited Malavade in hospital. While, Narayan Rane recently launched his party, Maharashtra Swabhimani Sanghatana, Nitesh has not yet officially joined it to avoid contesting elections at this stage.

On Saturday, Malawade was grievously injured after a group of hawkers allegedly attacked him with iron rods just metres away from the Malad police station. The MNS had accused Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam of inciting violence against its workers

Nirupam who had held a public meeting at Malad just before the attack, however, defended himself calling it retaliation by the hawkers. “If MNS workers attack the hawkers, they will get a fitting reply,” said Nirupam.

The NCP has come out in support of the hawkers blaming the BJP for the mess. “The whole MNS agitation has the blessings of the BJP and the victims are the poor hawkers,” said NCP leader Nawab Malik.

According to political analysts, the MNS is desperate to make a comeback and hence using such violent tactics. “This is just nuisance practised by Raj Thackeray and it will not yield any electoral benefit to him. People want constructive programmes instead of such violence,” said political commentator Surendra Jondhale.

The party’s been on the back foot since its defeat in the 2014 Assembly polls, and this year’s loss in the BMC elections worsened the situation. Over the last few months, Thackeray has been doing everything to reinvent his party, including appointing youngsters in key posts, consistently attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and trying to tap the anger against the ruling party, and leading a morcha against the railway administration.

7 hawkers held for attacking MNS leader

Seven hawkers were arrested for allegedly trying to murder Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Sushant Malawade in Malad (West) on Saturday night.

The incident occurred a day after MNS workers forcibly evicted hawkers from several railway stations in Mumbai. On Saturday morning, the Malad police had detained few MNS workers for rioting, but they were released on bail later.

In the evening, a group of hawkers attacked Malawade few metres away from Malad police station when he was walking towards the railway station. The hawkers allegedly hit him on the head and back with iron rods and hockey sticks, said a police officer.

The MNS leader was rushed to a hospital in Charkop as he had sustained serious head injuries.

The police have booked the hawkers under section 307 (attempt to commit murder) of the IPC, said assistant commissioner of police (Malwani division) Shrirang Nadgauda.

The police said several other suspects are yet to be arrested in the case. “Several other hawkers were involved in the incident and police will arrest them soon,” added Nadgauda. All the accused were produced at a holiday court in Borivli and remanded in police custody till October 30.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 23:08 IST