LBT protest turns violent

The protest by traders and shopkeepers against the introduction of the Local Body Tax (LBT) took an ugly turn yesterday after police arrested around 47 shopkeepers and charged them with criminal offences. Around 200 traders had gathered at Cotton Exchange in Kalbadevi, asking fellow traders to down their shutters in support of the movement. Police officials who arrived at the scene began manhandling people and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd.

Retailers and shop-owners gathered in front of Lokmanya Tilak Marg police station after 47 protesting retailers were arrested

About 5-6 people were hurt during the fracas that followed the protest. “We carried out a silent protest, without hurting anybody or breaking any structure. The police came from nowhere and started hitting and pushing us,” said Uday Shah, who participated in the protest and a member of the Federation of Association of Maharashtra (FAM).

Shopkeepers play cricket at a deserted Sai Nath Market in Malad (West) yesterday. Pics/Nimesh Dave and Bipin Kokate

However, after intervention from various political parties and members of the Federation of Association of Maharashtra (FAM), they were let off in the evening. Traders across the city have been protesting against the imposition of the Local Body Tax in lieu of the Octroi for the last 15 days.

Unfair detentions?
“Men who were just taking a walk with their families and were not part of the protest were also dragged by the police,” said Mahesh Rawat another member of the Federation of Association of Maharashtra. Of the 200 protestors, about 47 were detained and taken to the LT Marg police station.

“The cops told us that they were charging us under Section 144 of IPC and they called us criminals,” said Raman Tunawat, an electrical parts dealer. “The Government has already betrayed us by not sticking to their promise that no further taxes would be introduced after VAT and Octroi. We have lost trust in them. We will continue to protest against LBT,” added Shah.

Section 144 of the CrPC
Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) empowers a magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than 10 people in an area. According to sections 141-149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the maximum punishment for engaging in rioting is rigorous imprisonment for 3 years and/or fine. Every member of an unlawful assembly can be held responsible for a crime committed by the group. Obstructing an officer trying to disperse an unlawful assembly may attract further punishment 

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