Maharashtra bandh: Dalit ire results in street violence, vandalism; state crawls to normalcy as shutdown called off

Mumbai: Dalit protesters block the traffic at Western Express Highway near Aarey Check Naka during a 'Rasta Roko' protest over Bhima Koregaon violence, in Mumbai on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI1_3_2018_000176B)

he state-wide bandh (strike) called by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar in Maharashtra on Wednesday, which saw huge backing by Bahujans, was subsequently withdrawn in evening on the same day. The protest was a result of oppression faced by the Dalits, he said.

The bandh followed the two days of clashes that erupted after attack on Dalits in Pune, allegedly by Hindutva activists during the 200th anniversary celebration of Bhima Koregaon battle. Bhima-Koregaon, meanwhile, remained largely peaceful on Wednesday. Police bandobast continues.

Most Mumbaikars preferred to stay at home. Heavy police deployment was seen in sensitive areas, including Thane, Kalwa, Mulund, Chembur and Ramabai Colony in Ghatkopar. Those who stepped out had to face disrupted road traffic. Mumbai local and transport bus services were thrown off the gear amid protests. Mumbai Police confirmed that more than 150 people were detained through the day across the city.

In Pune, situation was tense but protesters continued without any violence. “We do not want violence,” the protesters kept repeating, amid loud chants of ‘Jai Bhim’.

Similarly, heavy police force deployment and the combing operation to detain troublemakers as a precautionary measure, kept situation under control in Aurangabad as well.

Reacting to developments in Maharashtra, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati criticised the BJP in Lucknow, “BJP and RSS do not wish that Dalits revisit and identify with their history, learn from it and live with self esteem.”

Nationalist Congress Party’s (NPC) Mumbai secretary Pramod Gaikwad said, “What happened in Bhima-Koregaon has left deep wounds in the minds of followers of Babasaheb. The incident could have been averted. But on the contrary, it seems that it was done after full planning. The chief minister is answerable for this. He cannot escape.”

The state lost business amounting to Rs 700 crore in the last two days, said Viren Shah, president of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association ( FRTWA).

Chaos outside Mumbai collector’s building, city transport hit

Majority of schools and colleges remained shut in the city. The dabbawalas (Mumbai’s iconic tiffin service providers), known for their disciplined delivery system, also stayed indoors.

All major arterial roads, including SV Road, Link Road, Eastern Express Highway, Western Express Highway and Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, were blocked by protesters resulting in chaos. BEST stated that 90 of its buses were damaged due to stone-pelting and four drivers sustained minor injuries.

rotesters took to railway tracks in Malad, Goregaon, Andheri, Dadar, Dahisar, Vasai and Virar. While the newly-started AC train service was suspended, long-distance trains remained unaffected. Central Railways public relations officer said that 110 local train services on the Central line were cancelled.

Members of Republican Party of India (RPI) leaders and other Dalit organisations went to meet Mumbai suburban collector Deependra Singh Kushwah to hand over a memorandum demanding strict action against those guilty of the Bhima-Koregaon incident.

While Kushwah was not in the office as he was scheduled to attend a court hearing, angry protesters tried to barge in the building. The presence of cops ensured that no untoward incident happened.

RPI’s Sumit Wajale said, “They should have respected the sentiments of hundreds of protesters, and come down to accept our letter. But unfortunately, it did not happen and our activists lost their cool. They could have turned violent. But we pacified them as we wanted to express our anguish and not create violence.”

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