Mumbai, Jan 3: Sporadic incidents of violence, road and rail blockages, stone-pelting, processions and protest demonstrations marred the Maharashtra shutdown called by some Dalit parties on Wednesday amid tight security across the state.
Groups of Dalit activists jumped on the railway tracks, shouting slogans and waved flags to attempt rail-blockades at various stations in Thane and Palghar districts, but were prevented by the security forces.
Hordes thronged Dahisar checkpost, the critical entry point to Mumbai and staged a road blockade, preventing traffic movement in both directions, and leading to vehicular narls. Stones were pelted at vehicles in parts of Jogeshwari, Powai and Andheri East in Mumbai.
Schools and colleges opened as usual in Mumbai but schoolbuses stayed off roads as a precaution. One private school bus was stoned in Chembur but there were no injuries to anyone.
Some examinations of the Aurangabad University had to be rescheduled as candidates could not make it to the examination centres, while internet services were suspended in the global tourist hotspot.
Though many taxi-auto rickshaw unions have supported the shutdown, Mmbai’s lifeline, the suburban trains and the BEST (Bombay Electric Supply And Transport) bus services were plying near-normally, with delays and thin crowds.
Some autos and taxis were seen plying in various areas, but the famed dabbawalas cancelled their services for the day, while the BEST suspended services on some routes.
Many shops and establishments also opened in the city and suburbs and there were the familiar crowds on roads and highways, but some hours later, they downed shutters in many areas.
The shutdown evoked greater response in mofussil areas compared to urban pockets of Thane, Nagpur, Pune and other cities.
The coastal Konkan region reported a near-total shutdown, as did the Dalit strongholds of Marathwada like Beed, Latur, Solapur, Jalgaon, Dhule, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Palghar.
The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses in some sensitive districts have been suspended as a precaution after it suffered damages to 187 buses in Tuesday’s violence.
The Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Dalit party headed by Prakash Ambedkar — the grandson of B.R. Ambedkar — called for a ‘peaceful Maharashtra shutdown’ on Wednesday to express anger over the Pune incidents of January 1.
The state shutdown is a fallout of the riots in Koregaon-Bhima, Pune district, on January 1 during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha War of January 1, 1818, between the vanquished army of Peshwa Bajirao II and a small force of the victorious East India Company that comprised a large number of Dalits.
Several lakhs of Dalits had congregated around the Victory Pillar (Vijay Stambh) erected by the British in Sanaswadi village when stone pelting suddenly started, allegedly by some right-wing groups carrying saffron flags, subsequently leading to the death of a 28-year old youth, Rahul Fatangale.
The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party blamed the saffron alliance of Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government for lapses and failing to prevent the Koregaon-Bhima incidents.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a judicial probe by a “sitting jugde” of Bombay High Court, a CID investigation into the violence and compensation of Rs 1 million for the victim’s family.
Moving swiftly amidst rising Dalit anger, the Pimpri police in Pune lodged a complaint against Shivjagar Pratisthan President Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti President Milind Ekbote.