Maharashtra bandh 100% success, says MVA
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), a three-party coalition of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, enforced a Maharashtra bandh (statewide shutdown), which they termed a 100% success, on Monday, protesting the killing of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. Shops, commercial activities and public transport largely remained shut in the state, including commercial capital Mumbai, affecting normal life. The bandh was by and large peaceful. barring a few incidents of stone pelting at BEST buses in Mumbai and minor skirmishes between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and MVA workers at a few places. The opposition, BJP, accused the ruling coalition of misusing police machinery to enforce bandh in the state. They also accused the MVA coalition of state-sponsored terror over forcing the people for a shutdown. Refuting the allegations, MVA responded, saying whatever happened in Lakhimpur Kheri can be called a terror act.
Leaders and workers from the MVA coalition took to the streets to ensure the shutdown was observed in Mumbai and in the state that was called to condemn the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which four cultivators were mowed down by a SUV during a protest that triggered the violence. The farmers alleged that Ashish Mishra, son of Ajay Mishra, Union minister of state for home, was driving the vehicle that killed the farmers.
The bandh was followed by protests and agitations such as blocking of roads and highways, bike rallies and silent protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre, which also led to traffic snarls at several places in the state.
The essential services, however, remained unaffected as they were allowed to be operated during the shutdown.
Shops and commercial establishments at most of the places were shut since morning. Those who refused to support the bandh were forced to do so by the ruling party workers. The bandh affected the commuters in the morning rush hour in Mumbai and neighbouring areas as bus services were stalled, following incidents of stone pelting at some places. Eight BEST buses and one leased bus were vandalised between midnight yesterday and Monday morning in Dharavi, Mankhurd, Shivaji Nagar, Charkop, Oshiwara, Deonar and Inorbit Mall, the officials said.
While the BEST bus services were affected in the wake of the bandh, the local trains that are considered the lifeline of Mumbai, were operating normally as no incident of “rail roko” was reported anywhere in the city. However, they were running fully packed as commuters shifted to suburban rail services. “Our services are running as per schedule,” Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer of the Central Railway, told PTI.
The Metro rail services were also operating normally in the city. According to the Union leaders, most of the black-yellow cabs and auto-rickshaws were off roads in the metropolis. “The black-yellow taxis are operating, but their number was less,” said AL Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taximens’ Union.
City’s renowned lunchbox deliverymen popularly known as “Dabbawala”, supported the bandh by discontinuing their services on Monday. Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) that had earlier declared not to support the bandh, also later changed their stand, after Sena leaders spoke to them. “After the request of Shiv Sena and other party leaders, we have decided to keep shops closed till 4pm in support of the bandh call by the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in protest against the killing of farmers,” said Viren Shah, FRTWA chief.
At some places, Sena workers were also seen beating autorickshaw drivers to force them to go off the road. There were also complaints of Sena workers puncturing tyres of vehicles to stall the traffic movement at a few places. They burned tyres on the eastern express highway during bandh at Vikhroli in Mumbai. MVA party workers have taken to the streets across Mumbai and several areas in the state, including Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Solapur, and Nagpur. Activists of the Sena also found caning autorickshaw drivers who were ferrying passengers and defying the bandh in Thane. A joint protest by workers from all the three ruling parties was also held at Samvidhan Chowk at Nagpur. Sena workers were detained by the police when they were staging a rasta roko on Pune-Bengaluru national highway in Kolhapur.
In Pune, traders at wholesale vegetable and fruit markets supported bandh by choosing not to operate while several auto rickshaw unions also participated in the protest by not bringing out their vehicles on the street. Public transport such as PMPML also chose not to ply buses till 12pm, but the state transport (ST) buses operated as normal. According to PMPML officials, they have decided not to ply buses in view of bandh and to avoid any damage.
Most of the APMC (agriculture produce market committee) markets were closed in solidarity with the bandh including Navi Mumbai, Nashik, Pune, Dhule, Nandurbar, Manmad, among others. All the prominent farmers’ organisations have already declared support to the bandh.
This was the first time the three ruling partners together held a state-wide protest. It got good response in Thane, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Parbhani, Amravati, among other districts. In Jalgaon, NCP and BJP workers clashed against each over enforcing the bandh. A similar incident was recorded in Buldhana where a skirmish took place after BJP and MVA workers came face to face.
In Mumbai, mayor Kishori Pednekar held a protest at Worli along with Sena workers by sitting on the road. Shiv Sena leader and former minister Sachin Ahir detained by the police for agitating at Worli.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut claimed that the statewide bandh was 100% successful. “Bandh in state was 100% successful, as people have shown their anger against the incident of mowing down farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri,” Raut said. “If someone is opposing this Maharashtra bandh then they must ask themselves if they are citizens of this country,” he said in response to the BJP and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) who opposed the shutdown.
To participate in the bandh, state NCP chief Jayant Patil, Baramati member of parliament (MP) Supriya Sule and minority affairs minister Nawab Malik held a protest at Hutatma Chowk in south Mumbai.
“The major reason behind the bandh is that the BJP government neglected the farmers’ protest at the borders of Delhi, but Lakhimpur Kheri incident is a clear murder. They were killed by a BJP minister’s son. It appears that BJP wants to crush the farmers’ agitation and to condemn the incident we have called this bandh,” said Patil. “BJP has unfortunately opposed it. It means they are supporting those who have murdered the farmers by mowing them down,” he added
“It is unfortunate to say that humanity has died. There was a time when humanity was alive in politics, but the current BJP government at the Centre has finished it off. We have called this bandh against the murder of the farmers. If you watch the video, you will get goosebumps even today. Have you ever seen such cruelty? It was a cruel incident. Condemning the incident will not be enough and he (Ashish Mishra) should be brought to justice. The union minister Ajay Mishra should have resigned from his position by taking moral responsibility for the incident,” Sule said.
While all key Congress leaders, including PWD minister Ashok Chavan, revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, state president Nana Patole, Mumbai chief Bhai Jagtap, women and child development minister Yashomati Thakur, state working president Arif Naseem Khan, among others, held a Maun Vrat (silence protest) agitation outside Raj Bhavan against farmers killing in Lakhimpur Kheri.
Patole said they have received spontaneous response from traders, businessmen to the bandh as they, too, were upset against BJP rule after GST implementation. “The spontaneous response to the band is an indication that the people have stood up against the rule of oppression by the BJP government. We will stand firmly with the farmers,” said Congress minister Yashomati Thakur.
Leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis said this is a state sponsored bandh imposed and implemented with the help of administration. “The traders and businessmen and their unions are being threatened to participate in it. The ruling parties are misusing police and GST administrations to impose bandh,” Fadnavis told reporters.
He said the state government should first give relief to the farmers who have suffered losses in the recent downpour in Marathwada and Vidarbha. “The MVA government is imposter and humbug. The Congress-led government had killed farmers protesting on water shortage in Maval in Pune a few years ago. Congress-led Rajasthan government heavily lathicharged against protesting farmers two days ago. This government is anti-farmers and the farmers have realised it,” Fadnavis alleged.
In response, Patole said that Fadnavis has shown his double face when it comes to farmers’ issues. “I had advised him to speak to the BJP-led central government against the step-motherly given treatment to Maharashtra instead of visiting flood affected areas. The state government has sought a relief package of Rs15,000 crore, but the Centre has agreed to provide nominal financial assistance. He should have taken up the issue with the Centre, but his hypocrisy is clear with what he is saying,” Patole remarked.
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said that the ruling parties in the state are trying to reap political mileage by giving the bandh call for what happened in Uttar Pradesh. “We condemn the bandh as it has posed a hardship to the general public. Instead of observing a bandh, the state government should first give relief to the farmers affected due to the floods in Marathwada and Vidarbha recently. The state government has done nothing except making tall assurances,” Patil said.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), too, opposed the bandh. MNS leader Ameya Khopkar said, “Instead of troubling citizens, the state government should have contributed one day’s salary to these farmers or worked overtime. People are already bruised by the consecutive lockdowns and this is like rubbing salts on their wounds,” he said.
Senior Congress minister Balasaheb Thorat said that being political outfits, MVA coalition wants to save the democracy of the country by holding the bandh. “For them (BJP) whatever happened in Lakhimpur Kheri with the farmers is a petty incident. Moreover, attempts are going on to save the culprit (Ashish Mishra) and this needs to be condemned by all… We decided to hold a bandh to save democracy, though we are part of the government. The politics of terror to remain in power is unfortunate. The incident is a loud and clear message for the farmers that if you hold protests against us then you will be crushed,” Thorat said.
Later in the evening, Fadnavis charged the MVA coalition with state sponsored terror over forcing the people for a shutdown. “This is a ‘Bandh Sarkar’ having stopped all schemes, all aid to the farmers. During Covid-19 pandemic, when the entire country was open, it kept Maharashtra shut. Today, when small traders, shopkeepers are somehow opened for business, it is using police and various agencies to enforce the bandh and this is a form of state sponsored terrorism,” Fadnavis accused.
Responding to the allegations, Raut said what has happened in Lakhimpur Kheri can be called a terror act. “Whatever happened in Lakhimpur Kheri can be called as an act of terror and not the bandh called to condemn the massacre,” the Sena leader said.
There was heavy police deployment across the state in the wake of the bandh. In Mumbai alone, security has been deployed at strategic points with three companies of state reserve police force (SRPF), 500 home guards, and 700 men from local arms units, according to the Mumbai Police.