Mumbai: Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar calls off bandh in Maharashtra

Jan 03, 2018, 16:29 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh President Prakash Ambedkar and Dalit leader, activist and grandson of BR Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar called off the bandh in Maharashta on Wednesday

Mumbai Bandh
Protestors at Malad. Pic/Vipul

Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh President Prakash Ambedkar and Dalit leader, activist and grandson of BR Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar called off the bandh in Maharashta on Wednesday.

"The shutdown was peaceful and has evoked a huge response all over. I thank all my supporters for making it a success," Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, told media persons. He demanded that the state government should slap murder charges on the perpetrators of the violence and subsequent death of a youth in Koregaon-Bhima incident of January 1.

Ambedkar cited the names of Shivjagar Pratisthan President Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti President Milind Ekbote, against whom complaints have been lodged by Pune police. "They should be arrested and face the same punishment as Yakub Memon (who was accused in the March 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts and subsequently hanged)," Ambedkar demanded.

He said the shutdown action was not only for the Dalit cause but to highlight the plight of the state's downtrodden people and seek justice for them. With the shutdown call withdrawn, it is expected that normalcy will soon return to Mumbai and Maharashtra by late evening.

Earlier today, protests spread to Powai and LBS marg. The Mumbai police has issued a traffic update stating that commuters are advised to avoid kalanagar and MMRDA junctions due to a rasta roko in progress.

There were incidences of cars being Ghatkopar to Aiport road metro services shut down. This morning, fresh protests erupted in certain pockets around the city including Bandra and Goregaon. There were some reports of violence in Chedda Nagar where protestors burnt a tire. Vikhroli station also saw protestors stage a rail roko. 

Around 1 pm, our correspondent reported that 13 BEST Buses have been damaged due to stone pelting. Rasta roko at Bandra Kalanagar, Dharavi Kumbharwada, Kamraj Nagar, Santoshnagar Dindoshi, Hanuman Nagar Kandivali due to which road traffic was affected. 

Western Railway cancelled 30 trains since morning with four to six disruptions due to rail roko. There are no injuries or damages to trains. The AC train was not sent to Virar and one service was curtailed. Ravinder Bhakar, chief spokesperson WR said.

As per Anil Jain, CR spokesperson, no trains have been cancelled but delays have occured due to four to five disruptions. There are no injuries or damages, but since 1120, trains have been stopped at Govandi now.

Vikhroli rail roko
Protestors at Vikhroli station. Pic/Vipul

Reports stated that protestors have staged a rail roko at Goregaon station. Public transport was badly hit during Tuesday's protests that followed Monday's clashes in Pune between Dalit and right-wing groups, with protestors throwing stones and stopping trains at various locations multiple times.

While 20 BEST buses and a few bus stops were damaged, mostly in Chembur, Deonar and Mulund, state transport minister Diwakar Raote appealed to protestors to refrain from damaging public transport buses. Maharashtra remained on edge after the anniversary of a battle fought 200 years ago brought to fore simmering caste tensions even as a statewide bandh called today to protest the state government's alleged failure to stop violence witnessed stray protest by Dalits.

Police on station
Cops at Vikhroli station. Pic/ Vipul

Dalit protesters tried to block tracks at the Thane railway station today 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 today 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 today.

"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 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 last 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 December 31. 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.

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