No police decision yet on hawkers’ January 24 rally

Mumbai Police said Thursday it was yet to take a decision on regarding permission for a rally on January 24 at Azad Maidan against alleged police high-handedness that led to the death of a hawker in Vakola last week. The rally is being organised by Azad Hawker Union.

"I have not yet received the application so permission has not yet been granted. We will wait and see how things pan out over the next few days, and then take a decision," DCP (Zone 1) Ravindra Shisve told Newsline.

Police said they were being cautious as they did not want the rally to snowball into a law-and-order situation like the one at Azad Maidan on August 11 last year. Cops are also wary after MNS chief Raj Thackeray warned hawkers on Wednesday against the rally.

Madan Jaiswal, a 40-year-old hawker, died during the drive by ACP Vasant Dhoble. Hawkers alleged that he died after Dhoble assaulted him. Medical reports said he died of brain hemorrhage. Protesting what it terms "the terror unleashed on them by the Mumbai Police", the union filed the application for permission on January 14.

"We applied for permission for a rally of 15,000 people. Initially, we had asked for January 17, but the ground was booked that day. We have now asked for January 24. We met DCP Ravindra Shisve today in this regard," said Daya Shankar Singh, president of the Azad Hawker Union. He added that he now expects over 50,000 people to turn up as it has become an "important issue".

The union clarified that the rally was not solely against Dhoble's actions. "We are protesting Mumbai police taking action when it is not their job to do so. Additional Commissioner of Police Vishwas Nangare-Patil has driven all hawkers off the streets in his jurisdiction and broken down the stalls," said Singh.

Singh complained that the fine levied on hawkers was disproportionate. "Hawkers are being fined Rs 1,500 when the handcart costs only Rs 500. The police need to stop chasing hawkers away from the source of their livelihood," he added. Jaiswal's family will be present at the proposed rally, Singh said. "The family is in a very difficult position now. We will keep a donation box at the ground during the rally to collect funds for the family," he said.

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