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MP, MLA thrashed in land protest

Mumbai, Aug. 10: An MP and an MLA were attacked with sticks and stones in their constituencies in Mumbai’s northern suburbs today by villagers who fear losing their land to an alleged promoter-politician nexus.

Palghar’s Independent MP Baliram Jadhav, a Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) member, and Virar’s Independent MLA Hitendra Thakur of the Vasai Vikas Mandal received minor head and hand injuries in the early morning attack and were discharged from hospital hours later.

Jadhav and Thakur had visited Wagholi village, 60km from Mumbai, in Thane late last night to try and convince residents to end their agitation against the inclusion of their village in a civic corporation.

Some 53 villages in Thane district are protesting their absorption in the newly formed Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation, saying this would lead to unregulated growth with builders gobbling up village land.

MLA Thakur, the strongman of Virar, controls much of the development in the area and had helped Jadhav win the Palghar Lok Sabha seat in the last election.

While the two politicians were returning to Virar, a mob of 150 to 200 people waylaid their convoy. A heated argument was followed by the attack, which injured 17 BVA activists and damaged nine vehicles in the convoy. The mob burnt down posters and banners of Thakur.

The attack led to a shutdown in the twin suburbs of Vasai and Virar and three State Reserve Police platoons were deployed in the area.

A fishing and farming zone, the Vasai-Virar region in Thane has seen a construction boom over the past two decades with Mumbaikars eyeing cheaper housing. Much of the construction is illegal, the villagers say.

The 53 villages formed a Gaon Bachao Sangharsha Samiti, led by the Shiv Sena’s Vivek Pandit, after the new corporation was formed on July 3 through a government notification.

Pandit, who lost to Thakur in the 2004 Assembly polls, and leaders of several other organisations have been on an indefinite hunger strike from yesterday morning.

“The government has turned a blind eye to exploitation by builders,” Pandit said.

Thakur’s party heads three of the four municipal councils that will, together with the 53 villages, form the new corporation. His brother Bhai Thakur, an alleged mafia don, was arrested under anti-terror law Tada in the early 1990s. The MLA has warm ties with the ruling Congress-NCP.

Thakur was primarily responsible for the election of actor and former Congress MP Govinda in 2004 from the Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituency, under which the region then fell. Delimitation, however, moved the twin suburbs to Palghar Lok Sabha constituency, and Thakur decided to support Jadhav.

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