Mumbai Bandh: BEST buses suffer the wrath of Maratha Kranti Morcha
Transportation in the city went mostly unaffected, except for buses that were vandalised and set ablaze by protestors
Silent protests seem to be a thing of the past for the Maratha community, as yesterday's bandh turned violent at several spots across the city. The police were out in large numbers, and managed to clear road and rail blockades, but as the day progressed, the agitation escalated to burning buses.
BEST buses damaged
There was significant damage to BEST buses during the protest. BEST Undertaking spokesperson, Hanumant Gophane, said 3,211 buses were put into service out of the fleet of 3,238. Over the course of the day, protestors attacked buses in 21 different incidents. A total of 25 buses were hit - two were burnt down, nine were vandalised, and the tyres of 10 were deflated.
The charred remains of a bus set ablaze by protestors
The bus burning incidents took place near Vashi bridge and Mankhurd, on bus routes 501 and 507. Protestors set the seats on fire and threw petrol bottles inside to fuel the flames. The windshields of several buses were broken.
"I had gone to work at Matunga in a BEST bus, but on my way home, I learnt that buses were being targeted. So, I took a train home," said Shivani Amin, a resident of Chembur.
Protesters swarm a bus stand and railway station in Thane
Trains go steady
On the Western Railway, a handful of protestors gathered on the Churchgate-bound fast line at Jogeshwari and stopped trains at 9.16 am. However, the police removed them from the tracks within eight minutes. On the main line of Central Railway, protestors blocked trains at Thane station 10.20 am, but there too, the cops dispersed the mob in four minutes. There were no disruptions on the line after that, informed railway officials.
Cops lathicharge agitators at Nitin Company Junction in Thane, after the protest turns violent. Pics/Sameer Markande
Road blockades, no cabs
The protesters also demonstrated below the Jagruti Nagar Metro station in the afternoon. As a precautionary measure, the entry and exit of Metro stations were closed for a short while, but services resumed soon after.
While citizens initially found the roads clear in the morning, protesters later started road blockades at a few spots. Demonstrators carrying morcha flags stopped BEST bus number 288 at Kandivli. Sources said some protesters had allegedly also stopped an auto rickshaw and asked the passengers to walk.
With the agitators hitting the streets of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, taxi and autorickshaw drivers were afraid to bring their vehicles out on the roads. The hardest hit were commuters who depend on private cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, as many drivers stayed off the road and there was surge pricing throughout the morning peak hours.
Those travelling to the airport had a difficult time finding a cab, leading to fears of missing their flight. An official from OLA placed at the airport told mid-day that several of his drivers from Thane and Navi Mumbai were unable to make it, and some were late due to incidents at Kandivli and Jogeshwari. A representative of Uber said that cabbies were refusing to drive to Thane and Navi Mumbai in the morning and early afternoon hours. "Even my drivers have been unable to make it," said Manoja Ghogale from Viira Cabs. While Ola did not wish to comment, Uber said there had been some reports of some cars getting damaged.
Schools and colleges unaffected
No holiday was declared by the government, but a few schools decided to either send children home early or cancel the second session. Due to travelling issues, there was low attendance of teachers, but not so much with students' attendance. Children were sent home early only if parents arrived to take them. There was some confusion over a tweet with a fake warning from state education minister Vinod Tawade, but his office soon clarified that it was a hoax.
Mumbaikars left their homes early on Wednesday morning to get to work on time, and many were surprised by how empty the roads were in the morning. Paresh Ingle, a resident of Andheri, said, "I travel to Goregaon for work, and because of the Metro construction, I have to battle in traffic for an hour. But the bandh kept lot of traffic away, and I reached work early."
Himani Joshi, a student from Kurla, said, "While I was driving to Matunga from Kurla, the roads were deserted and shops shut. This did scare me a bit but the police presence made me feel protected."
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Maratha Kranti Morcha to do a sit-in protest outside Collector's office in Bandra