Bittersweet bribes: Everybody was fresh-fruit fighting

Fruit vendors start food fight after TMA official beats up vendor.


Express August 08, 2011

KHANPUR:


A tehsil municipal administration (TMA) inspector tortured a fruit seller after he refused to give a bribe. Several fruit vendors began to throw fruit at the TMA official and his accomplices leading to a food fight in the middle of the crowded bazaar on Monday.


According to eyewitnesses, TMA inspector Asghar Shah asked fruit seller Atif to pay him Rs200 as a bribe. “He told me that he needed the money and when I refused he told me I would pay dearly for refusing him,” said Hameed Asad. “Later he asked me to give him some mangoes and peaches and I refused him again. Then he dragged me into the street and began kicking me. He hit me with a stick and began abusing me,” Asad said.

“I saw it happen. There were three TMA officials but only Shah beat Asad. The other two held him back,” said rickshaw driver Javed. “Within hours fruit was flying everywhere as other vendors began pelting the TMA officials with mangoes and apples,” he said.

“They were beating him to a pulp and he was bleeding heavily,” said fruit vendor Rasheed Ahmed. “These men think they can just come to our stall and take whatever they want. They don’t expect us to object because they are well connected and can make our lives difficult but we no longer care,” he added.

Amir Ilyas, another fruit vendor said, “This happens all the time. We have TMA and police officials come and pick choice pieces of fruit off our cart and never pay for them. We never ask for the money because we know something like this will happen. It just got too much.” “This time they asked for money and Asad refused,” he added.

Police officials booked 13 fruit vendors as well as the TMA officials for disturbing the peace.

Police officials later released the vendors but they took to the streets in protest.

A large group of fruit vendors have appealed to the Rahim Yar Khan district coordination officer (DCO) to immediately suspend TMA inspector Asghar Shah and order a departmental probe.

Asad has been admitted to the THQ hospital, where hospital officials said he was in stable condition. “He has sustained heavy bruises and his hand is broken but he is not in critical condition,” said Dr Waseem. Fruit vendors Rasheed Ahmed, Faiz Muhammad, Rafiq Ahmed, Jam Kalo, Ali Ahmed, Muhammad Hussain Nadeem and Amir Ilyas said that they would continue their protest until the DCO punished the officials involved. “If we need to we will stage a sit-in outside the DCO office,” Faiz Muhammad said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.

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