Bandh called off after violent Dalit protests in Mumbai, other parts of Maharashtra; govt will review CCTV footage
Shops across Mumbai city voluntarily shut as protesters,including women, picketed areas such as Powai, Dadar, Chembur, Bandra East, Ghatkoparindia Updated: Jan 03, 2018 21:57 IST
Dalit protesters burnt PM Narendra Modi and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis effigies at Lokmanya Nager, Thane. Security has been stepped up in Mumbai in view of a bandh called by a Dalit group. Several towns and cities in Maharashtra are on the edge over protests against the Pune violence over the death of a 28-year-old man near the bicentennial celebrations of a British-era war in Pune. (Praful Gangurde / HT Photo)
India’s financial capital ground to a halt on Wednesday as Dalit groups damaged buses, blocked roads, railway lines and Metro services to protest against the death of a 28-year-old man and violence near the bicentennial celebrations of a British-era war. (Bandh highlights)
Daily life also came to a standstill in the suburbs of Thane, Dombivali, Navi Mumbai and across Maharashtra in cities such as Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad because of a statewide bandh. The bandh was called off later in the day.
“Inquiry will be conducted in the incidents of violence that took place across Maharashtra. We are monitoring the CCTV footage of the violence,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said in the evening.
Echoes of the protest also reached Parliament in Delhi where the Congress disrupted Lok Sabha to accuse the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of fuelling violence against Dalits.
“We demand that the prime minister, who shows sympathy for Dalits during polls, should clarify his position inside Parliament on violence against Dalits,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters.
The bandh, called by BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar and supported by 250 groups, was against violence that broke out near Bhima Koregaon, 40 kilometres from Pune, on January 1 that left one man dead and 40 vehicles charred or damaged.
Hundreds of thousands of Dalits had gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a battle between the Peshwa, the erstwhile rulers of the state, and the British. Many believe the Dalit soldiers in the British army defeated the much larger army of the Peshwa, who is said to have instituted oppressive caste practices.
“Barring a couple of incidents, the bandh was observed in peaceful manner. Like minded groups and left parties participated in the bandh,” said Prakash Ambedkar, calling off the bandh around 4.15pm. He also demanded the arrest of two Hindu right-wing leaders – against whom FIR has been registered for allegedly inciting the January 1 violence – and warned the state government. “If the government fails to act, it will have to bear the consequences,” he said.
The two accused are Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratisthan from Sangli and Milind Ekbote of the Hindu Ekta Aghadi from Pune. “These two should face similar action to that of Yakub Memon in the Mumbai blasts. They are also terrorists,” added Prakash Ambedkar.
Response to the bandh was lukewarm in the morning but picked up by afternoon when protesters started targeting railway stations. Train services on the Western, Central and Harbour line were crippled by afternoon as protestors sat on tracks at Dadar, Thane, Kurla, Ghatkopar, Goregaon, Virar, Andheri, Kalyan, Kanjurmarg railway stations.
“Registration of FIRs is going on at different places. More than 150 miscreants detained at different places,” says Mumbai police spokesperson Sachin Patil in the evening.
Shops across the city voluntarily shut as protesters,including women, picketed areas such as Powai, Dadar, Chembur, Bandra East, Ghatkopar etc. Police were out in large numbers on roads and at stations but said they had been asked to not take action unless the protesters indulged in violence. “We have directed the police to not resort to lathi charge or any aggressive steps until the protests are held in peaceful manner. The protestors too have restrained from violent steps,” said an officer from home department on the condition of anonymity.
Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking (BEST) buses were vandalised and stone pelting was reported from some locations city. Mumbai Metro services were affected too in the morning due to the protests and services between Airport and Ghatkopar were temporarily shut.
Major arterial roads such as the Western and Eastern Express highways, Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, SV Road, LBS Marg were also blocked by protestors at various locations. Section 144 was imposed in Thane. Hundreds of protesters took out a bike rally in Thane. Two state-owned buses and an auto-rickshaw were vandalised, leading to injuries to four people.
The bandh evoked a mix response in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. While shops and other commercial establishments were open, some schools were shut. There were two incidents of stone pelting in the morning.
Nagpur and other parts of the Vidarbha region on Tuesday witnessed road blockades and vandalism against the violence at event marking the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in Pune.
Shops were closed at chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ Mul village in Chandrapur district after several Dalit organisations protested against the violence in which one person was killed. Miscreants damaged a couple of state-run buses.
The Vidarbha region, including Nagpur, saw some incidents of stone pelting and damage to property. A large number of protesters blocked the busy Jabalpur-Hyderabad highway and blocked interstate bus services.
(With agency inputs)