MUMBAI: The Mumbai police has filed three separate FIRs related to the chaos at Bandra station on Tuesday which saw thousands of migrant labourers defying the lockdown and trying to board trains to go back to their hometowns and villages. Senior police officials said an investigation is underway to determine what led to the incident.
“We are investigating the various aspects including videos shared allegedly by the accused. In one of these offences we have arrested a person named Vinay Dubey and he has been sent to police custody till 21 April," said Abhishek Trimukhe, DCP, Mumbai police.
The first FIR was filed against Vinay Dubey, said to be a local area labour activist who allegedly ran a social media campaign called "Chalo Ghar Ki Ore (let's go home)" asking Mumbai's stranded migrants to return home. Police officials said that a number of those assembled were responding to Dubey's call. Dubey was arrested on Tuesday evening.
The second FIR was filed against 800-1000 persons who had assembled in violation of section 144 or curfew laws. These people have also been booked under pertinent sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for disobeying government orders.
The third FIR was against a reporter of private television news channel who had allegedly circulated misleading news that special trains would run on April 14 to to ferry migrant workers to their homes states such as Uttar Pradesh Bihar and West Bengal. The journalist, said to be responsible for the report, was arrested on Wednesday.
Reports suggest that the lockdown extension up to 3 May led to unrest in some pockets of the city, where many migrants continue to remain stranded without any livelihood. Some of these workers had also approached the local area police seeking special permission to cross state borders but this was denied . "The police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the crowd", said DCP Pranay Ashok.
Investigators told Mint that three plausible reasons have emerged which could have caused the unrest, including social media posts and the news item which wrongly stated that railways will run special trains to take migrant workers to their home towns.
The confusion over special trains seems to have stemmed from an internal circular of the Indian Railways which was leaked to a section of the media. The circular, which Mint has seen, is dated 13 April and refers to a proposal to run Jansadharan Specials "for clearing stranded passengers/migrant labour" in unreserved coaches. The proposal was later retracted by the railways.
The circular from the Chief Commercial Manager (Passenger Marketing) of South Central Railways asked all senior divisional commercial managers to "critically analyse the number of stranded passengers as well as migrant labour and submit a detailed proposal along with clear originating and destination stations". The plan appears to have been to collate these proposals and decide the routes and frequency of Jansadharan Specials to help migrant labourers journey back to their native towns and villages.
IRCTC, the Indian Railways' online ticketing service, had been accepting bookings for travel from 15 April onwards. After Prime Minister Modi announced the extension of the lockdown on the morning of 14 April, the railways cancelled nearly 36 lakh bookings made for travel between 15 April and 3 May.
Mint spoke to senior railway officials who believe the large crowd at Bandra station on Tuesday evening was a culmination of misinformation as well as the migrant workers' pent-up frustrations at not being able to return home.
In an official statement, the Indian Railways clarified, "All passenger train services are fully cancelled, across the nation, till 3 May and there is no plan to run any special train to clear the passenger rush. No stations are open to the public."
Shreya Nandi in Delhi contributed to the story