Dalit protest cripples Mumbai, call for bandh in Maharashtra today

Jan 03, 2018, 08:20 IST | Team mid-day

Clashes began in Pune on Monday while community was commemorating 1818 Bhima-Koregaon battle; a 28-year-old man was killed in the protests

Dalits take to the streets to continue the protest that started in Pune. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Dalits take to the streets to continue the protest that started in Pune. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Clashes that began on Monday between Dalit and right-wing groups in Pune during an event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle spilled into different cities and towns in the state, including Mumbai, on Tuesday. During Monday's clashes, a 28-year-old man was killed, while three others were injured. In Pune, cases were registered by the Pimpri police against Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, who head the Hindu Ekta Aghadi and Shivraj Pratishthan, respectively, for allegedly inciting the violence. The two organisations had opposed the celebration of the "British victory" in the 1818 battle.

Traffic on the Eastern Express Highway came to a standstill for seven hours. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Traffic on the Eastern Express Highway came to a standstill for seven hours. Pic/Suresh Karkera

A day after clashes broke out in Pune on the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle, resulting in the death of one person, the violence spilled over into Mumbai on Tuesday. Hundreds of Dalits started pouring into the city early in the morning, and although the demonstrations had ceased by afternoon, trains and road transport in the eastern suburbs remained at near standstill till late in the evening.

Violence in the east
Areas like Mulund, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Chembur, Govandi, Kurla, Sion and some parts of Dadar witnessed the worst of the violence, as protestors went about shutting shops. Incidents of stone-pelting were reported, and more than 50 vehicles were damaged right at the beginning of the protest. As many as five policemen got injured, and over 100 people were detained over the course of the day.

Road blockade
Traffic was worst hit on the Eastern Express Highway (EEH), which connects Mumbai to Thane. While these areas did not witness much violence, protestors at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar and Kamraj Nagar held up traffic on the highway for nearly seven hours.

"Protests started around 1 pm. The protestors demanded assurance from Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis that strict action would be taken against the culprits of the Bhima-Koregaon clash," said a police officer.

"Protests were peaceful through the day at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar and Kamraj Nagar, but a large number of protestors, including children, squatted on the Eastern Express Highway, holding up traffic for more than seven hours." added the officer.

DCP (Zone VII) Akhilesh Kumar Singh said, "Except for the eastern suburbs and the Eastern Express Highway, there were no significant protests, and no vehicles were damaged anywhere else in the city."

Stuck in traffic
Ratna Sundarajan, a resident of Powai, recalled, "Like every Tuesday, I went to Siddhivinayak temple on this day too. On my way back, at 12.30 pm, I got stuck at Suman Nagar for two hours, since the protestors refused to let cars pass."

At 2.30 pm, the cops cleared out the crowd and their vehicle started moving. But they got stuck again at Amar junction. "Protestors pelted stones and broke the glass in a few vehicles. At 4.50 pm, when the car had still not moved, I got down and walked for and hour till I got home," said Sundarajan, who tried to hail auto rickshaws, but found no one was willing to accept her fare.

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