Maharashtra bandh Highlights: 16-year-old student killed, CM promises inquiry into violence
Maharashtra saw sporadic incidents of violence, road and rail blockages, stone-pelting and rallies during a bandh called by Dalit groups on Wednesday as tension spiralled in the state hit by protests against the death of a 28-year-old man near Pune earlier this week.
Schools and colleges were open in Mumbai but school buses were off roads on the day security measures were stepped up. Activists jumped on railway tracks, shouted slogans and waved flags to attempt rail blockades in Thane and Palghar districts.
Some examinations of the Aurangabad University had to be rescheduled, while internet services were suspended in the global tourist hotspot. The shutdown evoked greater response in sub-urban areas compared to urban pockets of Thane, Nagpur, Pune and other cities. The coastal Konkan region witnessed a near-total shutdown, as did the Dalit strongholds of Marathwada like Beed, Latur, Solapur, Jalgaon, Dhule, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Palghar.
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6:50pm: A 16-year-old student was killed in violence during a road block agitation in Nanded. Yogesh Prahlad Jadhav’s family members alleged that he was seriously injured during a police cane charge to clear a road block near Ashti village and succumbed to injuries. However, district superintendent of police said the body had been sent for autopsy to ascertain the cause of the death.
6:45pm: Flight operations at the Mumbai airport were badly hit, with 12 flights getting cancelled and 235 being delayed.
6:35pm: Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan calls for a time-bound inquiry into the Maharashtra caste violence, says strict action should be taken against those found guilty. Terming the caste system as the biggest evil of the society, he called for a change in attitude of the people.
6:25pm: The RSS sought to put the blame of caste violence in Maharashtra on a “breaking India brigade” which, it said, had raised anti-national slogans at the JNU in 2016 and was now trying to divide the Hindu society. “The Sangh by uniting all the sections of the society wants to march ahead,” RSS spokesman Manmohan Vaidya said when asked to comment on Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s reported remark that he suspected an RSS hand behind the violence in Pune.
6:20pm: “Registration of FIRs is going on at different places. More than 150 miscreants detained at different places,” says Mumbai police spokesperson Sachin Patil.
6:00pm: “No incident of firing reported from anywhere. The legal process for registration of cases is on,” says Sachin Patil, Mumbai police spokesperson.
5:40pm: “Inquiry will be conducted in the incidents of violence that took place across Maharashtra. We are monitoring the CCTV footage of the violence,” says chief minister Devendra Fadnavis: ANI.
5:30pm: The RSS is for establishing peace in the country and not to spread violence, Union minister Satyapal Singh says, defending the organisation against allegations that it fuelled the caste violence in Maharashtra.
5:02pm: Prakash Ambedkar says the shutdown action was not only for the Dalit cause but to highlight the plight of the state’s downtrodden people and seek justice for them.
5:00pm: “The shutdown was peaceful and has evoked a huge response all over. I thank all my supporters for making it a success,” says Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr BR Ambedkar. He also demanded that the state government should slap murder charges on the perpetrators of the violence and subsequent death of a youth in Koregaon-Bhima incident of January 1.
4:55pm: Mumbai Metro is expected to resume all services by 5pm, says Mumbai Metro One Private Limited spokesperson.
4:50pm: Terming the judicial inquiry ordered by the Maharashtra government as an eyewash, Mayawati says if the state government is really concerned about the welfare of Dalits, it should order crackdown on the elements involved in the attack.
4:48pm: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demands strict action against culprits, alleges that the saffron brigade is trying to suppress the Dalit community. “Without conspiracy, and protection of the BJP leaders, the anti-social elements could not have attacked the Dalits,” she says.
4:45pm:Maratha outfit Sakal Maratha Kranti Morcha demands action against those responsible for rift between different communities. “We respect the sentiments of Dalits, but we condemn the violence in the state. The government must nab the culprits who started communal trouble.”
4:20pm: “I welcome the judicial probe but it should not be headed by a judge from the Dalit community,”says Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar.
4:15pm: Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar calls off Maharashtra bandh.
4:00pm: State NCP president Sunil Tatkare says the need of the hour is to restore peace and harmony in the state. “(NCP chief) Sharad Pawar has already said that everybody should try to ensure that there is peace and harmony,” Tatkare told PTI.
3:50pm: The shutdown disrupted the shooting schedule of film and TV projects in Mumbai. Shoots of shows like “Kundali Bhagya”, “Aisi Deewangi Dekhi Nahi Kahi”, aired on Zee TV channel, were affected in Andheri and Jogeshwari respectively.
3:45pm: Sion Panvel highway blocked by protesters for over an hour.
2:15pm: Though many taxi-auto rickshaw unions have supported the shutdown, Mumbai’s lifeline, the suburban trains and the BEST (Bombay Electric Supply And Transport) bus services were plying near-normally, with delays and thin crowds. Many shops and establishments also opened in the city and suburbs and there were the familiar crowds on roads and highways, but some hours later, they downed shutters in many areas, reports IANS.
2:00pm: The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses in some sensitive districts have been suspended as a precaution after it suffered damages to 187 buses in Tuesday’s violence.
1:57pm: Heavy police deployment in Aurangabad. Stones pelted and vehicles vandalized by protesters
1:36pm: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad says: “Atrocities are being inflicted on Dalits since the last 3 and a half years, since BJP came to power in the centre.”
1:28pm: Back in Delhi, Union minister Ramdas Athawale says: “Police must have acted if Jignesh Mevani’s speech was instigating. But he has no relation with this incident.” He was reacting to the complaint lodged against Mevani, a Dalit leader, for allegedly making provocative statements in the Bhima Koregaon incident.
1:07pm: Rail Roko at Malad, Andheri, Borivali and Dadar on Western Line from 12.40pm. Stone-pelting on trains reported at Dahisar station. No report of injuries.
1:00pm: Train services are badly affected after rail rokos on all three corridors of the Central Railway as well as on the Western Railway. The CR main line hit between Kurla and Thane. Protesters also block trains at Dadar.
12:55pm: Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses and a car vandalized by protesters in Powai.
12:30pm: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge says: “A Supreme Court judge should be appointed for inquiry in the Bhima Koregaon violence. PM should also give a statement. He can’t stay mum!”
12:25pm: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raises the issue of Bhima Koregaon violence in Lok Sabha. He asks : “Who instigated and interfered in this event?”
12:11pm: Security outside the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi scaled up as protests continue in Maharashtra.
12:01pm: Two Thane Municipal Transport buses and an auto-rickshaw vandalised in Chendani Koliwada area. Four passengers are injured.
Noon: Rajya Sabha was abruptly adjourned till noon as several opposition members, including those from the Congress and BSP, sought to raise the issue of caste violence in Maharashtra.
11:50am: Bandh has evoked mix response in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad Muncipal Corporation. While shops and other commercial establishments were open, some schools were shut. There were two incidents of stone pelting in the morning.
11:45am: Some people pelted stones on a car on Mumbai-Pune Expressway near Panvel. No one is injured. Policemen deployed at nearby villages.
11:42am: The city of Navi Mumbai has remained peaceful even as the activists of the RPI staged protests at different places.
11:40am: Mumbai Metro services affected between Asalpha and Ghatkopar stations due to protests.
11:35am: Hundreds of protesters staged bike rally in Thane near Cadbury junction. Around 500 protesters staged rally from Vartak nagar bus stop to Cadbury . They staged rasta roko at Cadbury and then moved ahead to Kopri bridge along Eastern Express Highway.
11:30am: Banks and offices are open in Mumbai but many shops closed. Protesters force shops and hawkers to shut business in Parel in central Mumbai and several other localities.
11:22am: Suburban train services on Central Railway — comprising the main, harbour and trans-harbour lines — are running uninterrupted. A few minutes of protest took place at Diwa, Titwala and Vasind but railway staff, RPF and GRP officials cleared the path immediately to resume services. Due to this, a couple of trains were delayed for 5-10 minutes: Sunil Udasi, CPRO, central railway
11:20am: 13 BEST buses damaged due to stone pelting in Mumbai so far. RPI protesters demonstrate at the wholesale APMC Market in Navi Mumbai.
11:18am: Dalit protesters gather and block entire Akurli Road in the western suburb of Kandivli that leads to the railway station in Mumbai.
11:15am: Air-conditioned local train cancelled for today in Mumbai.
10:27am: Inter state bus services from Karnataka-Maharashtra temporarily suspended as a precautionary measure.
10:25am: Protesters halt buses and auto-rickshaws at Lal Bahadur Shastri Road in Thane, also deflate bus tyres.
10:12am: Auto-rickshaw service is unaffected in Mumbai though those are not running in some parts of Thane and Dombivali: Shashank Rao, leader of the Mumbai auto union.
10:08am: Internet services suspended in Aurangabad, bus operations also affected, reports ANI.
10:07am: Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal and Congress MP Rajni Patil, among others, give adjournment motion notice in the Rajya Sabha on Bhima Koregaon violence. Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge gives adjournment motion notice in the Lok Sabha.
9:55am: All trains services running normal in Pune division, security in place to maintain the situation, says divisional security commissioner D Vikas.
9:37am: Many schools in Thane shut. The administration says “considered safety and security of students”.
9:35am: The Savitribai Phule Pune University postponed its exam for M Com to avoid possible inconvenience to the students due to the bandh. Many schools preferred not to take attendance and asked parents to take a call on whether to send their children or not.
9:22am: People seen waiting near Thane’s Vartak Nagar due to less auto-rickshaws and other transport in the state. Buses and autos in various parts of Thane city were stopped forcibly. A stone-pelting incident was reported at Shastri Nagar but the police nabbed the protesters immediately.
Protesters also stopped buses and autos on the Eastern Express Highway. Most autos in Thane and Kalyan stayed off roads. Most shops too remained closed in the morning.
9:17am: Bus services towards Pune’s Baramati and Satara suspended till further orders.
9:00am: Mumbai Dabbawallas Association decides not to run its delivery service. Subhash Talekar, head of the association, says it’s difficult to deliver “of tiffins on time”.
8:55am: “Don’t believe or spread rumors, continue with your routine activities. Police administration is geared up to deal with any untoward situation” Mumbai Police tell residents.
8:45am: “Protesters tried to disrupt railway services at Thane but were immediately cleared by RPF and GRP officials. Services are running uninterrupted on Central Railway as of now,” ANI quotes CPRO of the Central Railway as saying.
8:25am: Section 144 (prohibitory orders) will be in place in Maharashtra’s Thane till January 4 midnight, reports news agency ANI. Protesters halt a train at Thane Railway Station.
8:20am: The School Bus Owners’ Association (SBOA) said it would not operate its fleet of 40,000 buses on Wednesday over security reasons in Mumbai.
Airlines waive charges
Domestic carriers, including the government-owned Air India, have waived charges for ticket cancellations and no-show due to the ongoing unrest. Air India said it will not charge any fee for cancellation of tickets or rescheduling of a journey to/from Mumbai on January 2 and 3.
Private carrier Jet Airways has extended the waiver to its customers till January 3. Budget carrier IndiGo said it will be providing change and cancellation fee waiver for flights to and from Mumbai and also Pune for January 2 and January 3. However, IndiGo, in a statement later said, it has extended the waiver on cancellation fee and no show for January as well for flights to and from Mumbai and also Pune.
Mumbai on the boil
In suburban Mumbai on Tuesday, protests erupted in Ghatkopar, Chembur, Powai, Mulund and Thane, as activists from different factions of the Republican Party of India (RPI) took to the streets. The police detained about 100 people across the city.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced a judicial probe by a sitting judge of the high court into the unrest in Pune. He also said the CID would investigate the death of Rahul Phatangale, 28, who died after being struck in the head by stones on Monday.
The incident has taken a political turn with Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar announcing a Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday. Various Left parties as well as Maratha community outfit Sambhaji Brigade have supported his bandh call, he said.
Through Tuesday, protesters damaged at least 20 government buses in Mumbai and halted services on the city’s harbour line for about 25 minutes.
In Thane, hundreds of protesters sat on the roads, forced shops to down shutters and smashed seven state-owned buses. The arterial Eastern Express Highway and other roads saw massive traffic jams due to protests. Reports of violence and stone-pelting also came from Pune, Solapur, Nagpur and parts of the Vidarbha region, the police said.
Hundreds of thousands of people gather at Bhima Koregaon every year to mark the anniversary of an 1818 war between the British and the Peshwa. Many Dalit leaders believe the war was won by the British with the help of Dalit soldiers in the regiment, who defeated a large army of the Peshwa, who was alleged to have instituted oppressive caste practices.
The celebrations gathered momentum in 1927 after BR Ambedkar visited the spot and called the Bhima Koregaon battle a war against caste. Historians are divided on the subject. But this year, the celebrations have been controversial, with several right-wing groups, such as the Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasangh calling the event anti-national.
Wednesday’s state shutdown is a fallout of the riots in Koregaon-Bhima in Pune district on January 1 during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha War of January 1, 1818. One person died in the violence.
The Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Dalit party headed by Prakash Ambedkar -- the grandson of BR Ambedkar -- called for a ‘peaceful Maharashtra shutdown’ on Wednesday to express anger.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, meanwhile, blamed the government for not preventing Monday’s violence near Bhima Koregaon.
“People from the village told me that some outsiders who belonged to right-wing organisations incited violence. Thousands of people gather at the spot every year, but there is no history of violence at this commemoration. Anticipating a large gathering on the occasion of the bicentenary, the government authorities should have taken due precautions,” Pawar said.
The chief minister defended the administration and said six companies of police were deployed given the estimated 300,000 people expected at the venue.Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Fadnavis over the phone for updates on the situation.
Meanwhile, in a tweet, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “A central pillar of the RSS/BJP’s fascist vision for India is that Dalits should remain at the bottom of Indian society. Una, Rohit Vemula and now Bhima-Koregaon are potent symbols of the resistance.”
(With agency inputs)