The feud between the MNS and Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam over the hawkers issue today took a violent turn after workers of the Raj Thackeray-led party vandalised the office of the Congress leader and called it a "surgical strike". While the MNS claimed responsibility for the attack at the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) office at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, police arrested eight MNS workers in the evening. "The MNS has carried out a 'surgical strike' on Nirupam's office. (It is) tit for tat," said MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande, who was among those arrested later. Nirupam had come out in support of hawkers against whom the MNS had launched an agitation following a stampede at the Elphinstone railway station on September 29. Nirupam and MNS workers later clashed in north Mumbai. "The incident occurred around 11.30 am. Two persons entered the MRCC office and vandalised it with the help of paver blocks and stones," a police official said. Windows and glasses of Nirupam's cabin were damaged, he said. "We are examining CCTV footage," Vasant Wakhare, senior police inspector of Azad Maidan police station, told PTI after the incident. Nirupam claimed the attack showed the frustration of the MNS. "I can understand the frustration of the MNS whose workers are being beaten up by hawkers regularly.
Their attack on our office is a cowardly act. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis must act fast or a befitting reply will be given for sure," he said. "MNS workers vandalised our party office when nobody was there. The police station is just 25 metres away," Nirupam claimed. Maharashtra Congress chief and former chief minister Ashok Chavan condemned the attack and said a fight with ideology should be conducted only through ideology. In the evening, a senior police officer said eight MNS supporters including MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande were arrested in connection with the attack. They were arrested on charges of rioting, unlawful assembly, criminal conspiracy and other relevant offences under the IPC as well as under the Mumbai Police Act, he said. Police also issued a statement, which said any individual or group which resorts to a violent protest and endangers people's lives and property would face the "wrath of law". "Mumbai police are duty bound to uphold the freedom of expression of individuals, social and political groups as long as they do not violate the constitutional rights of others," the statement said. Police have always facilitated protests which adhere to democratic norms, it said. A day after the stampede that claimed 22 lives, Raj Thackeray had said such stampedes would continue to occur in Mumbai till hordes of migrants keep pouring into the city. The MNS leader, who has stoked controversies with his anti-migrant rhetoric, had said, "There has been a collapse of infrastructure facilities due to the migrant influx from other regions".
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