Days after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) forcibly evicted hawkers outside several railway stations, four MNS workers were assaulted by hawkers outside Malad (West) station on Saturday afternoon.
The incident, in which the workers were injured, one of them seriously, prompted a contingent of MNS leaders to return to the station in the evening and attack hawkers. Police arrested 20 MNS workers. Police registered a case of rioting and also took seven hawkers into custody.
Tight police bandobast was deployed in the suburb as police feared a backlash from MNS workers. MNS workers alleged Saturday’s clash occurred after Sanjay Nirupam, president of the Mumbai Congress Committee, addressed a large gathering of hawkers in Malad and said “it’s time they retaliated”.
“During Nirupam’s rally, our workers were detained by Malad police as a preventive measure. They were forced to stay at the police station for a few hours so there was no trouble at the rally. Once the rally concluded, our workers were released. Some of them went up to the station, around 3.15pm, where a group of men pounced on them and attacked them with iron rods.
‘Vibhag adhyaksha’ Sushant Malavade was hit on the head,” said MNS general secretary Sandeep Deshpande. Malavade, who sustained a fracture, was rushed to Janhavi Hospital. Three other MNS workers were also injured. Deshpande and Sandeep Dhuri went to Malad police station with a small contingent of workers. Senior MNS leader Nitin Sardesai also reached Malad after the incident.
After the Elphinstone foot overbridge stampede, which claimed 23 lives, the MNS has adopted an aggressive stand against hawkers operating outside railway stations. “This incident has happened after Nirupam addressed a gathering of the hawkers and hence, we demand that a case be registered against him as well,” said Deshpande.
Speaking to TOI, Nirupam said, “I did tell the hawkers to retaliate as they are been left with no option now. MNS men are attacking poor hawkers who are trying to earn their livelihood and police is not taking any concrete action. At such a time the hawkers are left with no option but to retaliate.”
Later in the evening, Deshpande and a group of MNS workers, returned to the railway station to ascertain if hawkers were operating there and clashed with them. Police arrested 20 MNS workers, including Deshpande. Sources said Malavade and the other injured persons may have tried to evict hawkers again, which caused them to resort to violence at Malad on Saturday.
“We have registered a case of rioting and taken seven hawkers into custody. Tight police bandobast was deployed to avert any law-and-order situation in the suburb,” a senior police officer said. “All senior officials in the Borivli-Goregaon belt were roped in for the bandobast,” an officer said.
MNS youth wing leader Akhil Chitre, who was recently arrested for forcefully evicting hawkers at Santacruz station, said they had so far avoided any kind of violent behaviour with hawkers but would now be forced to react in a similar manner. Later in the evening, a group of MNS workers, angry over the Malad incident, removed hawkers from NC Kelkar road in Dadar (W), opposite Plaza Theatre. They then marched through the connecting smaller lanes, Chabildas School Galli, Ranade Road and then near D’Silva High school, Senapati Bapat Road and Jawale Marg. Meanwhile, the Dadar police and Shivaji Park police deployed personnel on bandobast to avoid any untoward incident.