Soon after MiD DAY published a story on how a board was installed in Mandai at Maharashtra Navnirman Sena corporator Rupali Thombre-Patil’s behest threatening Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs) with serious consequences if found soliciting clients in the area, the publication began receiving threats from unknown callers.
The board put up at Mahatma Phule Mandai, which is Thombare’s ward, sent women social activists in the city into a tizzy and they termed Thombre’s act as undemocratic and unconstitutional, and claimed that the message impinges on the sex worker’s basic rights. Though the board did not mention anything about the consequences clients would face if found attempting to engage services of the sex workers, it did mention what would happen to the CSWs. Thombre said that her decision to display such a board in Mandai is justified, as the area was not an appropriate place for ‘those’ women to stand.
“We have no objection if those women stand on the streets at Budhwar Peth (the red light area of the city), but they should not stand and behave improperly in the decent areas of the city,” Thombre had said. After the news broke, threat calls began coming in. One caller, claiming to be a local vendor in Mandai who did not identify himself, threatened to bring a ‘morcha’ of local women to the newspaper’s office for writing on the issue.
The caller initially said that the local women wanted to meet and share their grievances, but later began rudely asking how the views of local women could be ignored for the sake of a handful of commercial sex workers. Another vendor from Mandai called and identified herself as Kanchan Dode, She claimed to be associated with an NGO called ‘Janiv’, which works for women’s issue, and asked what the intention was behind publishing the story. She claimed that because CSWs stand in Mandai, the local women sometimes face an odd situation as men approach them assuming they are CSWs.
The corporator’s husband, advocate Vijay Thombre, also called this reporter and supported the idea of the board being displaying in Mandai. “Since my wife put the board up, CSW activity in the area has reduced by about 80 per cent,” Vijay Thombre said. He added that when the police did not seem interested in taking action, the local women complained to his wife, who was left with no other option but to display such a board to ensure some changes were initiated.
Senior Police Inspector of Cantonment police station, Sushma Chavan said that they are currently tracing the call to establish who had made the threat to the publication. When contacted, Anil Shidore, MNS state general secretary said threatening or assaulting anyone couldn’t resolve issues. “There is a misconception among the common man that the MNS is a party which indulges in hooliganism and goondaism. However, this conception is wrong, as the party doesn’t endorse or support such ideology,” Shidore said.
22 encroaching vendors evicted
The Anti-encroachment Department of the Pune Municipal Corporation yesterday initiated action against 22 illegal hawkers at Shivaji Road, Mahatma Phule Mandai and Bajirao Road, as these roads come under the no hawker zone. Assistant Inspector of the Anti-encroachment Department, S E Tak said that the walls built illegally on the footpaths of Mandai area were also demolished during the drive. Tak added that the 25-strong team encountered opposition from women hawkers near Shaniwar Wada.