Stall owners back on the streets, but outside police chowkie in Mumbai
Around 50 Linking Road stall owners, including women, have been spending their nights in and around Khar police station since last two days after cops refused to register a case against the BMC.
Earlier this week, these stall owners, registered with the Linking Park Stall Owners Welfare Association, along with social activist Aftab Siddique approached the cops demanding an FIR be lodged against the civic body for “harassment”. “We have been braving the 15 degree chill at night since last two days for we want justice. BMC officials have been harassing us since 2015 — threatening us and misbehaving with several stall owners. We approached cops at Khar police station to seek protection from BMC goons, but they have refused to register a case saying they don’t want to meddle in BMC affairs,” said Faisal Qureshi, the 27-year-old chairman of the association.
Significantly, the protesters have been sleeping inside the police station as well as on the footpath outside it. “In 2015 they tried to remove us citing garden beautification. Now, the excuse is to make Linking Road pedestrian free. When we tried to reason with BMC officers, they said we would be shifted to an alternate location, but they are not ready to give that assurance in writing,” alleged Qureshi.
Over 167 stalls are registered with the association.
Assistant municipal commissioner of H-west ward (Bandra) Sharad Ughade, however, rejected the allegations and said the stall owners had flouted several rules. "Over 50% original stall owners have sold the shops to second party. Some stalls owners have also extended their shops beyond the permissible area. Also, some of them are selling goods that have not been sanctioned by us for sale. BMC took action after several local residents and pedestrians complained about encroachment by stall owners in the area. They had approached the high court twice for stay on BMC action, but both were rejected. They are manipulating facts now," said Ughade.
Meanwhile, Police Inspector Yadav from Khar said, "We can’t do anything in this issue as it comes under the purview of the BMC. They can sleep on footpath as long as they want to."