Mumbai stir turns violent

ST Correspondent
Thursday, 26 July 2018

Two BEST buses set on fire by protesters; local trains and expressways blocked

Mumbai: The bandh called by the Maratha Kranti Morcha to demand reservation in jobs turned violent in some part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) on Wednesday. In parts of Mumbai, BEST buses were put on fire by the protesters, whereas in Kalamboli (Navi Mumbai), the police fired rounds in the air after the protesters attacked police. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that he is ready to discuss the issue. 

However, the opposition slammed the government saying the government wants to divide the society. Meanwhile, two MLAs from Shiv Sena and NCP offered to resign, if the government failed to issue an ordinance about reservation till Thursday afternoon. 

In Kalamboli, the agitation was extremely violent as the police used lathi charge and tear gas, and the protesters also pelted stones on police, police vans were also torched by protesters. The protesters blocked the Mumbai Pune Expressway for more than 8 hours. 

Maratha Kranti Morcha announced bandh on Wednesday in Mumbai Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad and Palghar. Mumbaikars participated in the bandh spontaneously and kept the shops closed in support of the Maratha community and only emergency services were exempted from the bandh. 

Groups of Maratha youths were on road to appeal to the people to support and participate in the bandh. In the afternoon, the protesters went on a rampage and the set two BEST buses on fire at Mankhurd and in Thane. Local train routes were blocked in Jogeshwari and near Thane.

The protesters blocked Mumbai-bound traffic on Eastern Expressway and the Sion Panvel Highway was also completely blocked. 

The protesters in Navi Mumbai also blocked the Mumbai Pune Expressway. The police used batons and teargas to control protesters, who were trying to block the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

As the agitation turned violent, Virendra Pawar, Coordinator of Mumbai for Maratha Morcha called off the bandh. He also appealed to other coordinators in Thane, Navi Mumbai to withdraw the bandh. “We want to agitate in a peacefully manner and the people also supported and cooperated with us, so we are withdrawing the bandh as the purpose of the agitation has been served,” he said. 

Life in Mumbai came on the track by Wednesday evening, but Kalamboli was burning as the protesters alleged that the police beat up a lady doctor during the protest. The video of the lady doctor being beaten up went viral and that fuelled the sentiments of protesters at Kalamboli.   

Two more BEST buses were attacked by agitators in Kanjurmarg and Bhandup. In view of the stone-pelting on buses, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) partially suspended its services in those areas.

Protesters also hurled stones at a public transport bus in Wagle Estate area of Thane. They blocked the Teen Haath Naka junction in Thane, resulting in long queues of vehicles on the road leading to Mumbai. A bus was also attacked in Ghansoli in Navi Mumbai following which the city transport authority suspended its services in the area, an official said.

To support the Maratha agitation, Harshvardhan Jadhav, Shiv Sena MLA from Kannad constituency and Bhausaheb Patil Chikatgaonkar NCP MLA from Vaijapur threatened to quit if the government did not issue an ordinance on the reservation. 

The opposition parties slammed the government over the agitation. Ashok Chavan, State Congress President alleged that the government had a plan to divide the society into two sections. “The State government is trying to keep Maratha and other communities fighting with each other so that will benefit the government. Earlier they tried to isolate the Maratha community in the Bhima Koregaon riot,” Chavan alleged. 

While Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly alleged that the government is posting the police for bandobast after checking their caste. 

“The government had asked the police and employees of the Revenue Department, their caste before posting them. All the postings were made before the Maratha agitation began,” he alleged.        

However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the government is ready to talk with the leaders over their demands. “The government has taken all possible steps for reservations. The issue is pending with the High Court but the government is still trying to resolve it,” he said. 

“The government has already declared scholarships and hostel facilities for Maratha students. Though there are flaws, the government is ready to talk with the agitators and solve the issue,” said Fadnavis.

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