Mumbai: Scores of Dalit groups on Tuesday staged protests in various parts of the city, condemning the violence which took place in Pune on Monday. The protests which started in the late hours of Tuesday morning, intensified by noon, leaving behind closed shops, damaged vehicles, no trains and stranded public.
Worst hit was Chembur which somewhat became the centrestage of all the protests since it is considered the stronghold of the Republic Party of India (RPI). Almost every second lane in the area was blocked by protestors since there are several slum pockets with a majority of Dalit community. Men, women, and children could be seen participating in the protests and even pelting stones at the police force which struggled to control the situation.
Areas like Lokhande Marg, Anand Nagar, Siddharth Colony, Ramabai Colony, Ashok Nagar, which have majority of Dalit residents, were some spots where police had even resorted to lathi charge. The police force even hindered some media professionals to click photos of the protests.
Especially near the Chembur railway station area, protestors barged into the shops and ordered them to shut else face their ire. Frightened shop owners adhered to the threats and closed down their shutters, however, one could see a few shops opened with half shutters by evening, when the situation normalised.
An owner of a photo studio said, “We were not aware of any such protests and had started our day like any other routine day. Suddenly hundreds of men entered our shop and asked us to shut it as soon as possible else they will damage it.” Apart from crying slogans and forming mobs at various nooks and corners, the protestors went on to vandalise public vehicles and even the nearby properties. After a few hours of this violent action, the Mumbai police somehow managed to calm down the infuriated mob.
Meanwhile, schools were not aware of the protests and resultantly were not prepared for the violence. Accordingly, schools called off the day early and allowed panicked parents to take their pupils back home. “I had sent my child to school (in Chembur) as usual by bus but by the time he reached there I heard of the violence and rushed to the school. Teachers were sending students back home with parents and they themselves were preparing to leave,” a parent said.