Dalit protests in Mumbai, trains halted after Bhima Koregaon violence

Angry protesters step out in Chembur, Ghatkopar, Powai, Thane on Tuesday; block roads, damage BEST bus, stage rail roko
Protesters clash with the police in Powai on Tuesday.(Satish Bate/HT Photo)
Protesters clash with the police in Powai on Tuesday.(Satish Bate/HT Photo)
Updated on Jan 05, 2018 05:41 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByHT Correspondents, Mumbai

Violent protests erupted in several parts of Mumbai and Thane, with protesters damaging buses, blocking roads, staging rail rokos and forcing shops to shut down on Tuesday, a day after a 28-year-old man died in Pune district following an altercation between two groups during celebrations to mark the bicentenary of a British-Peshwa war.

Protests broke out in the suburbs of Ghatkopar, Chembur, Powai, Mulund and Thane, after activists from the Republican Party of India (RPI) and their followers stepped out in large numbers to object to the death of Sanaswadi resident Rahul Phatangale, who succumbed to head injuries on Monday, police officials said.

As tension built, many shopkeepers downed their shutters in Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar, Chembur and Mulund.

Angry protesters damaged a bus near Chembur golf course, blocked roads at PL Lokhande Marg and Amar Mahal junction in Chembur and in Adarsh Nagar at Govandi, while RPI workers staged a rail roko at Chembur station, blocking a local train at 11.45am for around 25 minutes.

Protests at Anand Nagar in Thane on Tuesday. (Praful Gangurde/HT Photo)
Protests at Anand Nagar in Thane on Tuesday. (Praful Gangurde/HT Photo)

As a result, harbour line services are running late. “Some RPI workers refused to move off the tracks. Services resumed only after they left,” said an official from the Railway protection Force, who did not wish to be named.

The agitation also led to traffic snarls on the Eastern Express Highway, at Ghatkopar.

A vandalised TMT bus in Thane. Seven buses were reportedly damaged in the city by Tuesday evening. (Praful Gangurde/HT Photo)
A vandalised TMT bus in Thane. Seven buses were reportedly damaged in the city by Tuesday evening. (Praful Gangurde/HT Photo)

In Thane, hundreds of RPI activists staged rasta rokos in several parts of the city. Protesters damaged a civic bus at Wagle Estate, shops were shut forcibly, and a rail roko was held. As a result, localities such as Wagle Estate, Kopri, Vartak Nagar, Manpada and Cadbury junction in Thane remained tense. Many shopkeepers also shut shops voluntarily to avoid incurring damages.

Shops closed near Kurla railway station. (Musab Qazi/HT Photo)
Shops closed near Kurla railway station. (Musab Qazi/HT Photo)

Abhishekh Trimukhe, DCP (crime), Thane, said: “Three to four protesters smashed a bus in Wagle Estate in the afternoon. Shops were closed in several parts of the city, so we are checking if they were shut forcibly or they closed voluntarily. Protests were also seen in Manpada area of Dombivli, Ulhasnagar and Kalyan.”

Activists blocked roads in Chembur and Govandi on Tuesday afternoon. (Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)
Activists blocked roads in Chembur and Govandi on Tuesday afternoon. (Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)

“Don’t believe in rumours. Traffic on the Eastern Express Highway was affected due to the protests, but it’s moving now. Traffic at Chembur Naka is still affected. There is nothing to panic. Verify facts with police officers and men before posting anything on social media,” the Mumbai police tweeted.

Angry protesters damaged a bus near Chembur golf course on Tuesday. (Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)
Angry protesters damaged a bus near Chembur golf course on Tuesday. (Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)

The Mumbai police maintained that the situation is under control.”Shops were not closed forcibly in Mulund. People who took part in the agitation requested shopkeepers to close their shops. The situation is under control,” said Shripad Kale, senior police inspector, Mulund police station.

On Monday, one person died and four were injured after violence broke out in Bhima Koregaon in Pune district, near the memorial of an 1818 war between the British and the Peshwas.

RPI protesters in Powai. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)
RPI protesters in Powai. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)

Thousands of Dalits gather at Bhima Koregaon every year to mark the anniversary of the war between the British, who had several Dalit soldiers in their regiment, and the Peshwas, then rulers of parts of Maharashtra.The Dalit community believes that the British won the war and that Dalit soldiers played a key role in defeating the Peshwas, who were said to have instituted oppressive caste practices. Celebrations gathered momentum in 1927 after BR Ambedkar visited the site.

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