Normal life in Mumbai was disrupted as protesters attacked city buses, stopped suburban local services and blocked roads at various places in the city. Dalits began protests in suburban Chembur, Ghatkopar, Kamraj Nagar, Vikhroli, Dindoshi, Kandivali, Jogeshwari, Kalanagar and Mahim, police said. Hundreds of protesters tried to block the Western Express Highway in the morning, but were moved from the spot by police.
Mumbai Police on Wednesday registered nine cases in connection with Tuesday’s violent protests. Over 100 people have been detained in the city since Tuesday. Here are the latest updates and developments from the Maharashtra bandh today:
■ Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis says inquiry will be conducted in the incidents of violence.
■ Amravati: A total bandh was observed in the Amravati district today protesting Monday’s violence at Bhima Koregaon. Protesters submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister and the Governor through resident deputy collector Nitin Vyavahare.
The memorandum submitted to the CM and Governor demanded that those involved in the violence at Bhima Koregaon be booked under the National Security Act and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Act. They also demanded trying the case in a fast track court with lawyer Ujjwal Nikam to plead it. (PTI)
■ The protesters in Amravati also demanded permanent police security for the Smriti Stumbh at Bhima Koregaon and compensation worth Rs. one crore to the family of the deceased and Rs.75,000 each to those injured in the violence. They also demanded an impartial probe in the matter through a panel headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice KG Balakrishnan.
The protesters demanded the arrest of Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide who, they alleged, were responsible for the violence against the dalits. (PTI)
■ Prakash Ambedkar, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader and the grandson of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, withdraws Maharashtra bandh call. The government has ordered a judicial probe.
As violent protests were reported from Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra amid the Maharashtra Bandh called by Dalit leaders today, political parties reacted cautiously, appealing for restoration of peace. (PTI)
■ State NCP president Sunil Tatkare said 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.
■ Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe said incidents of violence at Bhima Koregaon and elsewhere in the state were unfortunate. “There is an attempt to create a social divide which we have to foil unitedly," she said. The government has ordered a judicial inquiry and “root cause of the violence will be clear after the probe," she added. The district collector and police should have taken appropriate steps to help those stranded at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district after the violence on January 1, she said.
■ Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan told PTI that restoring normalcy should be the priority. “Just an inquiry is not enough. Strict action against the guilty is needed. There should be an inquiry by a sitting judge appointed by the Chief Justice," he said.
■ The state-wide bandh called by Dalit groups affected the film and television industry with some shoots being disrupted and others being cancelled as a precautionary measure. Shoots of shows like “Kundali Bhagya", “Aisi Deewangi Dekhi Nahi Kahi", aired on Zee TV channel, were affected in Andheri and Jogeshwari respectively. “There is major disruption near “Kundali Bhagya" sets. (PTI)
■ Nashik: The Maharashtra Bandh called by Dalit leaders has evoked a considerable response in the Nashik city today. Commercial establishments in the city and Satpur, Ambad, Nashik Road localities remained closed.
Buses of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation and auto rickshaws too remained off the road. The administration had already declared a school and college holiday. More than 2,000 police personnel have been deployed in the city, said a police official. Bandh was also being observed in Manmad and Lasalgaon.
A Manmad-Lasalgaon ST bus was stoned this morning at the Lasalgaon Railway Gate and some agitators tried, unsuccessfully, to set the bus on fire, according to the rural police control room officials. Police commissioner Ravindra Kumar Singhal and District Superintendent of Police Sanjay Darade have requested people not to believe rumours or forward false or inflammatory WhastApp messages. (PTI)
■ Suburban train services were disrupted at Ghatkopar station due to the bandh called by Dalit outifits in the state. Train services on Central Railway’s mainline towards CSMT was affected, in turn delaying thousands of office-goers. Commuters at several stretches of the suburban network were seen walking along the tracks due to trains being stalled.
Officials said that local trains running towards CSMT were halted at several stations because of the protestors squatting on the tracks. There was heavy deployment of railway police as well as Railway Protection Force personnel at the stations, said officials.
A railway police official on duty at Ghatkopar said, “Many protestors have come from distant places and gathered at Ghatkopar to make their bandh a success. We are persuading them to not stall trains." (PTI)
■ Heavy Police deployment in Aurangabad, stones pelted & vehicles vandalized by protesters, ANI reports. Earlier, ANI reported that two Thane Municipal Transport buses and an auto-rickshaw were vandalized in Chendani Koliwada area; four passengers injured.
■ Remaining services of AC local suspended for the day in view of protests. Other suburban services are being run amid intermittent protests at Elphinstone Road, Goregaon, Dadar, Malad. There is no cancellation of Long Distance trains, however, ANI reports.
■ 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." (ANI)
■ Union Minister Ramdas Athawale says “Police must have acted if Jignesh Mevani’s speech was instigating. But he has no relation with this incident."
Athawale was responding to a question on complaint lodged against Jignesh Mevani for making provocative statements on the Bhima Koregaon violence. (ANI)
■ Tension prevailed in Nagpur with schools and markets remaining closed on Wednesday amid the Maharashtra Bandh call given by Dalit leaders to protest the violence over the bicentennial celebration of the Bhima-Koregaon battle. Several markets and most schools in the city remained closed with protest marches taken out in many sensitive areas.
■ Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodhke told PTI that two incidents of stone pelting were reported in the city. A man got injured in stone pelting in New Kamptee area, he said. Protesters blocked a road in Hingna area, while tyres were set on fire on roads at some places, he said, adding that tight security arrangements have been made across the city.
Two companies of the State Reserve Police Force and 250 home guards have been pressed into service. Police have appealed organisers of protest marches not to block roads, and hand over their memorandums of demands to police stations in the area, Bodhke said. (PTI)
■ Civic buses were again targeted in Mumbai. Thirteen buses of the civic transport service ‘BEST’ were damaged by protesters in Kalanagar area (Bandra), Dharavi, Kamraj Nagar, Santosh Nagar, Dindoshi and Hanuman Nagar, PTI quoted an official from the Disaster Management Unit of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said. The city witnessed a major disruption of road traffic owing to protests in the eastern suburbs on Tuesday.
■ Suburban trains were running normally on Wednesday morning though activists tried to stage blockades on tracks at Thane on the Central line and Goregaon on the Western line, railway officials said. Dalit protesters descended on tracks at Thane and Goregaon stations in the morning.
“Few protesters tried to disrupt Railway services at Thane but were immediately cleared by the Railway Protection Force and Government Railway Police. Services are running uninterrupted on Central Railway," said Sunil Udasi, chief spokesperson, Central Railway. There were protests at Goregaon and Virar on the Western suburban line too.
“Tracks have been evacuated of protesters and train services have been resumed at Virar and Goregaon from 9.05am," Western Railway said in a tweet.
■ Mumbai’s famed tiffin carriers, Dabbawalas, chose not to provide their services on Wednesday. Subhash Talekar, spokesperson of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said, “Since most of our customers may find it difficult to reach office, we have decided to suspend our services today." (PTI)
■ Mahesh Narvekar, senior official from the civic body’s disaster management unit, had said earlier that the BEST buses will not run on some sensitive routes, including Kandivali-Akurli, Dindoshi-Hanuman Nagar, Chandivali-Sangharsh Nagar, Khairani Road-Sakinaka, Sahar Cargo, Mulund Check Naka and Jijamata Nagar. Anil Garg, president of the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA), told PTI, “99% of our buses are off the road in the state today for security reasons. Only one or two per cent of buses are on roads."
“We have decided not to ply school buses in the first shift (during morning hours) today and if circumstances allow, we will run the buses in the second shift," Garg said. “Since law and order situation is beyond our control, we cannot take risk," he added. Some 40,000 school buses are affiliated to the SBOA in the state. Garg also claimed that some school buses were damaged by protesters in Mumbai today, but police did not corroborate the claim.
■ Though the government has not declared a school holiday, many parents chose not to send children to school. Vijay Shukla, a resident of suburban Vikhroli, said, “I have two kids, both studying at a school in Vikhroli east. Though school was open today, I suggested they stay at home."
■ Offices in major commercial hubs too witnessed low attendance, as employees stayed away from work fearing violence.
■ Rajya Sabha on Wednesday saw two adjournments during the pre-lunch period, as several members including those from the Congress and BSP, sought to raise the issue of caste violence in Maharashtra. Follow live updates from Parliament here.
■ Dalit protesters tried to block tracks at the Thane railway station on Wednesday morning, but they were chased away soon and the traffic on the Central Railway line remained uninterrupted, said a railway official.
■ Protesters also tried to block rail traffic on the Western line in suburban Goregaon, said a police official. Today’s Class 11 exams at St Xavier’s College in South Mumbai have been cancelled, college authorities said.
■ Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader and Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar have called for Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday to protest the state government’s “failure" to stop the violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district two days ago.
Ambedkar alleged that Hindu Ekta Aghadi was responsible for the violence. He said Maharashtra Democratic Front, Maharashtra Left Front and some 250 other organisations have supported the call for shutdown. While the state government clarified that it hasn’t declared a school holiday, bus operators said they won’t run school buses in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“We can’t risk students’ safety and security. Will take a second decision at 11 am if we can run them in the second half, depending on the situation," a School Bus Owners’ Association spokesperson said.
■ Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Meavani, who was in Mumbai yesterday, alleged the attacks on Dalits in Pune district two days ago were carried out by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
“These organisations are modern-day Peshwas, representing Brahminism in its worst form. Two hundred years ago, our forefathers fought against the Peshwas. Today, Dalits of my generation are fighting against the new Peshwas," he said.
“Why can’t Dalits peacefully commemorate the anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle? The attackers have resorted to such methods because they are scared of Dalit assertion," he said.
■ Pune police on Tuesday night said they had received a complaint against Mevani and Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) student leader Umar Khalid for their “provocative" speeches at an event in Pune on 31 December.
Mevani and Khalid had attended the “Elgar Parishad", an event organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, at Shaniwar Wada in Pune. Violence erupted in Pune district when Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in which the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwa’s army.
Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory, as it is believed that soldiers from the Mahar community—then considered untouchable—were part of the East India Company’s forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits.
PTI contributed to the live updates