The Ghatkopar Citizen Forum called for a one-day bandh in the suburb on Wednesday, the morning after its general secretary was assaulted by a group of 10-15 men allegedly at the behest of MLA Prakash Mehta. The victim, Ashok Bhanushali, was attacked over a parking row with the MLA outside a sweet shop in Ghatkopar on Tuesday. He is a Congress affiliate.
Bhanushali was attacked outside his office, allegedly with hockey sticks, following which he was admitted to Rajawadi Hospital. On Wednesday morning, he was shifted to Pancholi Hospital in Ghatkopar (East). Bhanushali, who is recovering at the hospital, said, “My friend who owns the Tip Top farsan shop called me up after BJP MLA Prakash Mehta started hitting his sons. They had requested the MLA to move his car which was parked in front of the shop and was blocking traffic.”
Bhanushali said that when he reached the spot around 2.30 pm on Tuesday, he saw the MLA threatening the shop owner Nirmal Khetia that he would shut his shop down. In his police statement, Bhanushali said that he pleaded with Mehta not to kick up a ruckus but the MLA threatened Khetia and Bhanushali with their lives.
“In the evening, while I was in my office, a group of 10-15 young men sent by Mehta beat me up with iron rods and choppers,” Bhanushali added. Bhanushali, who suffered several bruises on his arms and back other than an injured left eye, is now recuperating at the hospital. Doctors said he was stable.
Posters spring up
Overnight, big banners carrying photos of Bhanushali with a black eye came up across Ghatkopar to declare the bandh, called to protest the attack. Major shops and restaurants across the suburb were shut on Wednesday. Police maintained a tight vigil in the area to avoid further conflict. “There was a political clash here on Tuesday because of which a bandh was called. Though most shops remained closed, a few remained open to sell groceries and essentials,” said the owner of a roadside stall open during the bandh.
Auto rickshaws and taxis plied as usual. “Everyone knows how that man (Ashok Bhanushali) was attacked outside his office because of the posters put up all over,” said Ram Lal, an auto driver. Despite repeated attempts to contact the sweetshop owner Khetia, he could not be reached for comment. Though an FIR was filed at the Pant Nagar police station, Prakash Mehta was not arrested on Wednesday. Bhanushali has decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike if the MLA is not arrested within 24 hours.
Additional Commissioner of Police (East Region) Quaiser Khalid said, “An FIR has been registered against Prakash Mehta.” Mehta has been booked under sections 107 (abetment), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 142 (unlawful assembly), 143 (punishment), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common interest) of the Indian Penal Code.
Inputs by Sagar Rajput