Mumbai: Shiv Sena protests as BMC does its job

Flags of many parties were brought down in an anti-encroachment drive in Dadar; nearly 50 Sena workers, led by MLA Sada Sarvankar, protested, forcing shops to shut and restricting traffic; the demonstration ended when BMC restored one flag

Nearly 50 workers of the Shiv Sena protested yesterday in Dadar against a BMC ward officer who allegedly pulled down the party’s flags as part of an anti-encroachment drive. The civic officials had taken down flags of other parties in the ward as well, but it was the Shiv Sena that took to the streets, forcing shops to shut and restricting traffic in the area.

MLA Sada Sarvankar and other Shiv Sena workers protested against the BMC ward officer for pulling down a Sena flag. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
MLA Sada Sarvankar and other Shiv Sena workers protested against the BMC ward officer for pulling down a Sena flag. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

On Thursday, at around 7 am, the BMC began its routine anti-encroachment drive in Dadar (West), traditionally a Sena bastion. The drive included, besides pulling down flags, the removal of illegal alterations made to shops.

The protest ended only after the BMC sent in a JCB machine to re-erect the flagpole
The protest ended only after the BMC sent in a JCB machine to re-erect the flagpole

The BMC was acting on the municipal commissioner’s directive to clear footpaths, and these flags were seen to be obstructing pedestrians on footpaths. According to the G/South ward office, they removed the flags of several political parties in the area, including Shiv Sena and its archrival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

Flag-bearers
Around 50 Shiv Sena workers, led by MLA Sada Sarvankar, took to the streets at around 10.30 am, raising their voice against the initiative with slogans like ‘Awaaz konacha, Shiv Senecha’ (Whose voice is it? Shiv Sena’s) and ‘Bhagwa Zenda Fadakla, Marathi Manoos Bhadakla’ (The saffron flag unfurls, the Marathi manoos is angered).

“I had asked the ward officer several times in the past that if the flags needed to be placed elsewhere, we will do it. Instead of asking us or giving any prior intimation, he simply removed seven-eight of our flags. I was at the mayor’s bungalow at the time and had to rush to the spot,” Sarvankar told mid-day.

The area had to be deployed with heavy police cover and traffic was restricted for two hours. Fearing for their safety, several shops also downed shutters. “I had to keep my shop shut for an hour. It was a big loss for me,” said Imran Salot, who owns a garment shop on Ranade road.

When asked if they could have refused and stayed open, another garment shopkeeper, Yasib, said, “They asked us to keep shops closed. Ab kya karein?” The BMC sent in a JCB around 1.30 pm to restore one of the fallen flags, after which the protest was called off.

Asked why the Sena was protesting when the party rules the BMC, Sarvankar said, “The ward officer, Sharad Ughade, is a Congress-wallah. He only targeted flags of our party.” However, when mid-day spoke to Ughade, he said they had removed flags of all parties in several places. “The action will continue,” he said, not answering why one flag was restored.

Party speak

Sandeep Deshpande, MNS corporator
Our party flags were also removed. But we didn’t protest as the drive was legal. How can an MLA take to the streets in support of something illegal? His position as legislator should be revoked.

Devendra Amberkar, Congress corporator
This is contempt of court since the High Court has directed the BMC to prevent defacement of public spaces. The Sena should not have taken such a stand.

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