Mumbai: Protesters attacked buses, stopped suburban trains and blocked roads at various places in Mumbai as normal life was hit in the city and other parts of Maharashtra during a bandh called against violence on the anniversary of a battle fought 200 years ago.
Dalit activists stop a train during Rail Roko protest at Dadar station over Bhima Koregaon violence, in Mumbai on Wednesday
The bandh was called off later in the day. Dalits staged protests in suburban Chembur, Ghatkopar, Kamraj Nagar, Vikhroli, Dindoshi, Kandivali, Jogeshwari, Kalanagar and Mahim, police said.Hundreds of protesters tried to block the Western Express Highway in the morning but were moved from the spot by police. Incidents of stone pelting were reported at a few places on the harbour line, police said.
Mumbais famed tiffin carriers, Dabbawalas, chose not to provide their services on Wednesday. Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader and B R Ambedkars grandson Prakash Ambedkar had called for the bandh to protest against the state governments "failure" to stop the violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district two days ago.
Later, announcing the bandh withdrawal, he alleged right wing leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote were behind the Pune violence and demanded that they be arrested and made to face the same legal process as Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Memon. "Nearly 50 per cent of the state population took part in the shut-down," Ambedkar told reporters. "Not only Dalits, but OBCs also participated in the bandh," he added. Except for a couple of incidents, the bandh was largely peaceful, he said.
However, the situation on roads for the better part of the day belied Ambedkar’s claim as incidents of road blockades, arson and stone-pelting were reported in Mumbai and elsewhere during the day.
While the state government said it hasn’t declared a holiday in schools due to the bandh, bus operators said they won’t run school buses in Mumbai on Wednesday. Mumbai police registered nine cases in connection with violent protests in the city. Over 150 people have been detained in the city since Tuesday, police said.
Protests also took place in Navi Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Pune, Nanded, Parbhani, Washim, Akola, Sindhudurg, Raigad, Kolhapur, where incidents of road blocks, vandalising and stone pelting were reported, police said. In Pune, Maratha outfit Sakal Maratha Kranti Morcha sought stern action those responsible for rift between different communities and appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadnavis said those responsible for the caste violence in Pune will face action and the matter will be taken to its logical end. He said the state government will soon approach the Bombay High Court, asking it to name a sitting judge to probe the January 1 violence at Bhima-Koregaon in Pune district.
Violence erupted in Pune district on January 1 when Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in which the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwas army. Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory, as it is believed that soldiers from the Mahar community 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.
The battle has come to be seen as a symbol of Dalit pride because a large number of soldiers in the Company force were the Mahar Dalits. Since the Peshwas, who were Brahmins, were seen as oppressors of Dalits, the victory of the Mahar soldiers over the Peshwa force is seen as Dalit assertion.On 1 January 1927, Dr B R Ambedkar visited the memorial obelisk erected on the spot which bears the names of the dead including nearly two dozen Mahar soldiers.