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Nakshatra’s illegal hookah parlour

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sting operation by ADC and NGO exposes

Police personnel from the Shivaji Park police station almost botched up a sting operation conducted by an NGO, Crusade Against Tobacco (CAT), at Grass, a hookah parlour located on the third floor of Nakshatra Mall at Dadar West on Wednesday evening.

ADC Reporter Shwetha Kannan and Photographer Azad Shrivastav who accompanied the activists were witness to the sordid episode. Minutes before the operation, the ADC team did its own recce of the place:
Entering the place they saw that there were many under-aged patrons who were openly smoking hookahs at various tables. On being asked about minimum age and proof or ID required, a waiter unsuspectingly assured them that no such formalities were insisted upon in this place. Further, on being asked about tobacco and nicotine and being told that there was no nicotine in the hookah, on further probing, they were later told that a little bit was normally always present.

The raid
Vincent Nazareth, the chairman of CAT, along with Bharat Amin, PRO of CAT, entered the parlour accompanied by two policemen. Seeing the law men and sensing that something was amiss, some youngsters tried to get away, but were ordered to sit down by the cops. By then, all the people in the parlour were keen on getting out but were told to remain seated.

In a short while, Afzal Nadaf, who identified himself as the manager and as the one responsible for running the place, started arguing with the cops about detaining the customers. He brazenly told the youngsters, among whom there were quite a few girls, that they were free to leave and no one could stop them.

This sparked a general run for the exits as many made a quick getaway, even using the back gate of the bar, while the two policemen kept standing at the entrance waiting for their senior officer.

When Assistant Police Inspector, Sunil Pawar and a colleague from the Shivaji Park police station made their appearance, the parlour was Illegal hookah parlour... empty of smokers and all the hookahs that were on the many tables in the room, were already stacked neatly in a corner.

Nazareth, who happened to know the rules governing hookah parlours and smoking started explaining to the cops, who seemed ignorant and clueless about what action they could take and what charges they could impose on the offenders and the establishment. “We do not know under what section we can take action against hookah parlours. We don’t have any guidelines,” said Pawar. Nazareth had to point out that the laws were in place and were sent to the police one year ago.

As the police went around the establishment doing their investigations, manager Nadaf spoke very rudely to the ADC staff as well as to the activists. He however admitted to the cops that the parlour was set up in an empty open space and there was no permission taken from the BMC or any authority to run the hookah parlour. Permission was taken only for the pool tables. He also admitted that there was no register to maintain records of customers. He earlier very arrogantly told the ADC team that a proper register was kept and that his staff were lying when they said that age proof was not asked for at the parlour.

Time and again, Nazareth clarified to Nadaf and to the cops that he was, per se, not against hookah parlours if they were properly regulated and did not permit under age patrons to enter and smoke. He announced that if this matter was not taken up by responsible authorities today, he would be going on a dharna from Friday onwards.

Five boxes seized
The police have seized five boxes containing flavoured ingredients for the hookahs and have sent them to the police lab for testing.

Unrepentant and rude
Manager Afzal Nadaf tried to rough up our photographer in the presence of the cops and threatened to break the camera for taking his pictures without permission. The cops intervened and peace was restored.

Smoky past
This is not the first time that Nakshatra’s hookah parlour has figured in the news. Nazareth divulged that six months ago, Grass had been raided by the police and the Shivaji Park police have a written statement confirming that the hookah parlour was closed.

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