A group of Maharashtra legislators on Tuesday beat up a policeman on the Assembly premises. The incident disrupted House proceedings for the better part of the day. On Monday, he allegedly stopped an MLA’s car for speeding on the Bandra-Worli sea-link.
Kshitij Thakur Thakur, independent MLA from Vasai, moved a breach of privilege notice against assistant police inspector Sachin Suryawanshi for allegedly obstructing his vehicle on the sea-link while he was on his way to attend the Assembly. He alleged that the policeman ‘misbehaved’ with him.
This led to a general clamour with legislators demanding the policeman’s immediate suspension.
Following a brief adjournment over the issue, Mr. Thakur spotted Mr. Suryawanshi in the visitors’ gallery at noon. Along with some MLAs, he began hitting the policeman. Among others, the legislators involved in the incident were Ram Kadam (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena), Rajan Salvi (Shiv Sena) and Pradeep Jaiswal (independent).
Mr. Suryawanshi was taken to the St. George Hospital in a stretcher.
Later in the evening, Mr. Thakur told reporters that Mr. Suryawanshi used abusive language against him and he would not apologise to an official who was disrespectful to a people’s representative.
Incidentally, Mr. Suryawanshi was sent on forced leave on the directive of Home Minister R.R. Patil after the same issue was raised in the Legislative Council on Monday by Deputy Chairman Vasant Davkhare.
Senior leaders of every political party have condemned the Tuesday attack, with some privately concurring that the legislators concerned should be immediately suspended.
Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse said the BJP would not tolerate such acts by its legislators. “If CCTV footage reveals our legislators were involved in beating the policeman, the party would bar them from attending the House proceedings for the rest of the session,” he said.
Nationalist Congress Party spokesman and legislator Nawab Malik said “law makers cannot be law breakers,” while demanding that action be taken against unruly legislators for their conduct.
The House witnessed five adjournments before finally reconvening for business at 5 p.m. Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil ruled that he would take a decision after he collected all appropriate information pertaining to the incident. While commenting that there could not be any justification for the incident, he apologised to the police and people. He asserted that if either party (the legislators or the policeman) was found guilty, they would not be spared.
Later in the evening, police brass, led by Commissioner Satyapal Singh, called on Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Mr. Chavan said persons found guilty after the inquiry would not be spared. A decision on the matter would be taken on Wednesday.
The ugly melee was without precedent in the legislature. “An attack against any government official doing his duty is simply not acceptable. While opinions differ in a democracy, no one has the right to resort to physical violence.”
A video footage of the incident was examined and he had directed the Speaker to conduct a thorough probe into the affair, he noted. The incident brought back ugly memories of violence in the Assembly after four MNS legislators, led by deceased MLA Ramesh Wanjale, assaulted Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Azmi in 2009 as the latter preferred to take the oath of office in Hindi and not in Marathi. The four legislators were handed down a sentence of four-year suspension, but were soon let off following a ‘contrite’ apology tendered by them.