Mumbai: Mumbaikars were caught off-guard as Dalit community protesters staged massive protests across the city. A pall of gloom descended over people’s faces as they ventured out for their offices after the armed agitators threatened people and forced shopkeepers to down the shutters.
Protesters’ biggest show of strength in suburbs was staged at Dahisar check naka where hundreds of ‘Bhim Sainiks’ blocked the entry point to the city. The Dahisar toll naka was also kept closed as a precaution. Police kept strict vigil in the surrounding areas as protesters continued their march. Activists rallied around the streets on motorbikes of western suburbs of the city toting flags and forced shopkeepers to down their shutters. Places across Borivali, Kandivali, Poinsur, Dahisar, Vasai, Naigaon and Virar were largely affected by the uproar.
Although no stone pelting or trouble was caused to people the suburbs, thousands of Dalit protesters took to streets, carrying iron rods, wooden sticks, and stone blocks were patrolling and blocking the streets. People wore a scared look on their faces as they rushed back home, fearing risk to their lives as protests were staged after minor intervals in Borivali, Kandivali, Dahisar and Goregaon.
“Our motive is clear, we want justice. If we are suffering, others should also know what we are going through. What you are facing now, we have been facing for centuries. We will make sure the government is uprooted as they failed to act on the (Bhima) Koregaon issue. We are not scared, be it anyone or anything,” said Vilas Chavan, a protester at Dahisar. He denied any links with a particular group or party.
Dalit activists sat on the middle of the roads and recited hate slogans and chants. The armed protestors ran behind vehicles to inflict damages. They were also seen running around the streets chanting ‘Jai Bhim’ slogans and cursing the government.
However, another protester on the streets of Vasai said that we just make sure the ‘bandh’ is organised and executed. “We are rallying around the area to make sure no one keeps their shops open. We don’t want to hurt anyone but we won’t let anyone operate today. All we want is justice to (Rahul) Fatangale. And that can be served by convicting (Milind) Ekbote and (Sambhaji) Bhide,” Bhushan Telang told FPJ. He also added that the protests won’t stop until justice is served.
By late afternoon, all the streets of Vasai and Virar wore a deserted look. Neither shops, nor people were on road. Rickshaw and taxi stands were completely shut. Bhayandar and Mira Road were comparatively quieter than other places all through the day.