Padmaavat protests: School bus vandalised in Gurgaon, Haryana Roadways bus set afire
Haryana was among the four states that wanted Padmaavat banned but was snubbed by the Supreme Court that asked the states to ensure safety of property and people.
Students of a private school had a narrow escape but some passengers on a Haryana Roadways vehicle were injured when miscreants attacked two buses in Gurgaon on Wednesday allegedly protesting the release of Hindi film Padmaavat.
Police said the buses were attacked within half an hour of each other on the Sohna Road in Bhondsi village, which has a sizable population of Rajputs who claim the film distorts history and is disrespectful to legendary queen Padmavati.
“There were incidents where a school bus was vandalised and a Haryana Roadways bus was torched,” Gurgaon commissioner Sandeep Khirwar said in the evening, adding 13 people were detained.
Protest against the controversial period drama by fringe outfits, including Rajput caste groups, intensified a day ahead of the film’s release.
Haryana was among the four states that wanted the film banned but was snubbed by the Supreme Court that asked the states to ensure safety of property and people.
At around 2pm, a GD Goenka School bus was pelted with stones on the Sohna Road.
Alert teachers and bus conductors told students, who were heading home, to lie down on the bus floor. Bus windows were damaged but students escaped unhurt.
The driver said protesters attacked the bus without any warning. “There were small children in the bus. As police tried to thwart the attackers, we drove away to safety”, he said.
Some half an hour later, a group of 50-60 masked men carrying stones, iron rods, and petrol stopped the Haryana Roadways bus close to a temple.
They threw stones though around 25 passengers were sitting in the bus. The passengers managed to get out but the group doused the bus with petrol and set it on fire, the conductor said.
Some passengers suffered minor injuries and a few private vehicles were damaged in the stone pelting, said police, who fired in the air and carried out a lathi charge to bring the situation under control.
Eyewitnesses said the violence was planned as miscreants reached the spot in small batches of eight to 10. After setting the bus ablaze, they tried to prevent fire brigade and police officers from reaching the spot by throwing stones at them. It took an hour to extinguish the fire.
“Our teams reached the spot as soon as the information was received and removed the bus from the road. The road was immediately opened for traffic,” Gurgaon Police PRO Ravinder Kumar said.
20 arrested in Gurgaon
Gurgaon police arrested 20 persons on Wednesday for allegedly violating prohibitory orders and violence, an official said.
“The premiere show of the movie is being shown at 10 locations in the city. Suspected people have been detained from there by police teams. So far, 20 violaters have been arrested in Gurgaon,” commissioner of police Sandeep Khairwar said.
He expressed regret over the attack on the school bus and directed forces deployed near schools to provide adequate security to students.
“Gurgaon Police is on a high alert and teams are ready for rapid response in case of any untoward incident. The teams include tear gas team, water canon team, fire tenders, ambulances, reserve force, traffic police, cranes etc,” he said.
Gurgaon police PRO Ravinder Kumar said, “Police teams rushed to the spot and controlled the situation. We have arrested 20 violators and detained several hooligans from the spot and are trying to identify other agitators.”
Congress, Kejriwal condemn violence
The Congress slammed the BJP government in Haryana on Wednesday over its “failure” to maintain law and order in the wake of an attack on the school bus by mobs protesting the release of the film Padmaavat.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi condemned the violence in a tweet. “There will never be a cause big enough to justify violence against children. Violence and hatred are the weapons of the weak. The BJP’s use of hatred and violence is setting our entire country on fire,” he posted.
The Congress’s communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala took to Twitter to term the attack as “unacceptable” and “reprehensible” that endangered the lives of children.
“Unacceptable, reprehensible and devastating as vandals attack school bus and Haryana Roadways bus in Gurgaon endangering the lives of innocent children and passengers.”
“Terrified children cry inconsolably and anarchy prevails. Khattar Govt fails again miserably in upholding law and order,” he tweeted.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said such violent protests were not good for the already “dwindling” economy of the country.
Condemning the school bus attack, Kejriwal said “more disgusting is the complicity of those governments” which are “allowing such incidents through their inaction”.
If the governments and the courts cannot ensure that a movie is “released and run safely”, how will investments flow into the country, he asked.
“If all state govts, central govt and SC together cannot get one movie released and run safely, how can we expect investments to flow in?” Kejriwal tweeted.
He said that such a situation where investments are discouraged is bad for job creation.
“Forget FDI, even local investors wud feel hesitant. Not gud for already dwindling economy. Bad for jobs,” the chief minister said.
(With agency inputs)