Cops side with water rats

Oct 16, 2011, 08:49 IST | Akela

Activists claim they were beaten up by the police for complaining against the water mafia

Activists claim they were beaten up by the police for complaining against the water mafia

When Avinash Joshi and Sunder Bisht complained to the Ghatkopar police about the year-long illegal activities of the water mafia in their area, little did they know that they would end up in the lock-up themselves, battered and bruised. The two alleged that  they were tortured by the police and framed in a false case, after they registered a complaint on September 28.

Avinash Joshi (left) and Sunder Bisht at the MiD DAY office last week.

Joshi (36) and Bisht (34) have since made several complaints (copies available with Sunday MiD DAY) to the Chief Minister, Home Minister and Prime Minister, against the Ghatkopar police, alleging police brutality. Bisht, who has since then got himself treated at a private hospital, claims he has a fracture in his right ear  and cannot hear from it any longer.

According to a September 24, 2011 letter to the political leaders, Joshi met BMC Commissioner Subodh Kumar a week before the incident and complained about the water mafia in the area that has been illegally collecting water from the BMC without a receipt and selling it to slum pockets in the city for the past one year. Kumar reportedly promised to initiate an enquiry into the matter.

Four days later, Joshi reportedly came to learn about water-theft occurring in the BMC water-filling yard. He visited the spot with Bisht, to see tankers illegally filling water. He called the police control room on the complaint numbers 300174597 and 00174603, and constables were sent to the spot.

Bhist reportedly suffered an inner ear fracture after being tortured by
the police last month. Pics/ Santosh Nagwekar

Joshi said, "This has been going on for a year. Over 150 tankers, drivers of which are hand-in-glove with BMC officials and the Ghatkopar police, steal water from the station. One constable Ashok Mahale reached the spot and angrily enquired about the identity of the complainant. The tanker driver also said, 'Jab Kasab ka kuch nahi ukhada toh tum complaint karke hamara kya ukhad loge?' (When Kasab who has killed so many people hasn't been punished, what will your complaint do to us?)" 

Joshi alleged that he introduced himself to Mahale, who slapped him and Bisht, and then bundled them into a police van and took them to the police station. There, about five policemen, including the duty officer, started thrashing them.

According to Joshi, Bisht fell unconscious after the beating, and they were both taken to Rajawadi Hospital where Bisht was revived. "I urged the doctors to check my vitals and administer the necessary medication, but they refused and gave me generic pain medication for three days," said Bisht.

The next day, Joshi and Bisht were arrested under Sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the IPC, apart from Sections 110 (indecent behaviour in public), 112 (misbehaviour in public place), and 117 (provision for punishment for offenses punishable under Sections 110 and 112 of the Act) of the Bombay Police Act. They were finally released on bail after spending three days in Thane jail.

Post the incident, Bisht is a shaken man. "I had seen police torture in films, but have now faced it myself. My perception about the Mumbai police has changed." In response to our questions, Mahale was brazen. "If they claim so, then it must be true," he shrugged. Senior Inspector CV Jhendekar was not available for comment.

What is the water mafia?
The water mafia fills water illegally from the BMC water filling station, without a proper receipt. They are, in fact, meant to be hired by the BMC to supply water to public gatherings like processions, functions and rallies in the city. Instead, they sell this water to huts in Shivajinagar, Govandi, Mankhurd and under-construction sites and nursing homes in Vikhroli and Ghatkopar.

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