A joint effort by the Pune City and Rural police ensured that the ‘rasta roko’ protest called by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) against collection of toll in the state turned out to be a flop show, as minimal traffic disruption on the highways and major junctions were experienced by the motorists.
Toll order: After MNS corporator Rupali Patil and her supporters tried to block traffic at Sant Kheteshwar chowk at Katraj, she was taken into custody by Bharti Vidyapeeth police
However, a few incidents of violence were reported after party chief Raj Thackeray's arrest in Mumbai, wherein MNS workers pelted stones at a few PMPML buses. By the end of the day, the police had arrested 124 party leaders and detained 450 workers.
Toll collection at the booths near Manjri remained unaffected despite attempts by MNS workers to protest on the Pune-Solapur Road. Pics/Mohan Patil
NS activists tried to stop vehicles at Sant Kheteshwar chowk in Katraj, but timely police action prevented chaos. Officials from Bharti Vidyapeeth police station arrested MNS Corporators, including Rupali Patil and Vasant More, at Katraj junction.
The workers were successful in preventing toll collection from motorists at the Khed-Shivapur toll plaza just before the commencement of agitation at 8.45am. But the Pune Rural police personnel reached the spot and detained 20 MNS workers. Fearing backlash, the toll plaza employees shut the booth till evening.
Packed like sardines: MNS workers, carrying party flags, stuffed themselves inside an ST bus
The Warje police arrested eight MNS activists, including their leader Raja Gorde, who tried to deflate the tyres of a private bus at Chandni chowk to induce a traffic jam around 8.30 am. After taking the workers into custody, the police immediately moved the bus and restored traffic flow.
MNS corporator Rupali Patil and her supporters being detained by officials from Bharti Vidyapeeth police station yesterday. Pics/Mohan Patil
Loni Kalbhor police also detained 20 MNS workers at the toll collection booths near Manjri in the afternoon. But unlike Khed-Shivapur toll plaza, toll collection here continued uninterrupted. Attempts by MNS leaders to block the Pune-Nagar Road proved futile.
Number of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party workers detained
Sanjay Markad, state joint secretary of MNS Mathadi Kamgar Sena, said they were protesting at Hinjewadi when police detained 200 volunteers. However, Markad and 24 others hide at a local snacks shop to evade detention. They protested soon after the police crackdown. Marak said the workers in Hinjewadi they adhered to Raj Thackeray’s order of abstaining from violence, unlike their fellow workers in the city.
MNS city chief Bala Shedge, who was detained by Hadapsar police, said, “We were protesting on the Pune-Solapur Road. Police detained us after we deflated tyres of a few heavy vehicles. The volunteers did not stop private vehicles like cars, buses and two-wheelers. But still the police detained 70 volunteers.” He added that the protest was called off from their end the moment they received the new that the MNS cable association head passed away. Shegde and his volunteers are now preparing for the morcha on Mantralaya in Mumbai on February 21.
MNS corporator Rupali Patil, who has been detained by Bharati vidyapeeth police, said they were protesting peacefully. It was only after Thackeray’s arrest that the volunteers erupted. She claimed that stone-pelting incidents in the city was the natural reaction of volunteers after Thackeray’s arrest.
— Inputs from Priyankka
>> Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) M B Tambde said, “Four PMPML buses were stoned in Kothrud, for which two persons were arrested. Three of their accomplices are at large. MNS workers also tried to set ablaze a PMPML bus in Hadapsar, but our officials immediately reached the spot took control of the situation.”
>> Additional Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) Ravindrasinh Pardeshi said, “Three FIR’s have been registered at Lonikand and Lonavala police stations. A total of 450 MNS activists were detained, mostly from near toll plazas. They were the ones who had either came to protest or disrupt traffic flow on the highways. We have arrested over 40 party workers.”
>> Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Vishwas Pandhare said, “We had planned in advance to ensure that traffic doesn’t get affected due to the agitation. We had chalked out the strategy of letting the party workers protest at the junctions for a few minutes and then immediately take them into custody to prevent jams. This helped us avoid confrontations at major junctions.”
>> Superintendent of Highway Traffic Dilip Bhujbal said, “Our main objective was to ensure smooth vehicular movement across the highway. Though the MNS party workers tried to protest and block the highway at a few locations, our officials took care of the situation, and within minutes traffic flow restored. The overall traffic movement across the highway was 50 per cent less, as people stayed off the roads expecting trouble.”
>> Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dehu Road) Vinayak Dhakne said, “We were prepared for today’s protest and had beefed up security across all the major toll nakas. Precautions were taken to prevent MNS volunteers from breaking the law. Apart from deputing police personnel, we had gas guns, ambulances, cranes and gas cutter machines ready in case the situation turned ugly. Four mobile vans were patrolling the old highway and the expressway.”