Mumbai: Protesters targeted buses and disrupted train traffic in parts of Maharashtra during the “Bharat Bandh” called Monday by the Congress against the rising fuel prices, but schools, colleges and offices remained opened in the state. Maharashtra Congress workers staged protests in various parts of the BJP-ruled state in response to the nationwide shutdown called by the party’s central leadership against the rising fuel prices.
The shutdown is backed by other opposition parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the Samajwadi Party, the Peasants and Workers’ Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Workers from several political parties, including the Congress and the MNS, briefly disrupted transport services by stopping suburban trains and metro rail at various places in Mumbai. Nearly 100 Congress leaders and workers were detained during the protest in Mumbai, a police official said.
State Congress president Ashok Chavan, party’s Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam, along with other party workers were detained by the DN Nagar police in suburban Andheri, Mumbai police spokesperson Manjunath Singte said. Earlier, Chavan led the party’s protest, travelling by a local train to Andheri railway station, before staging a rail roko there.
Congress leaders Manikrao Thakare, Naseem Khan and others joined Chavan during the protest as party workers raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. As many as 14 buses of civic undertaking BEST were vandalised by protesters in various parts of the city, a spokesperson of the transport utility said.
Most of the buses were attacked in Central Mumbai and suburban Chembur, he said. The Congress also hit out at the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra. “The Modi and Fadnavis governments have engaged in loot by levying excise charges (on fuel products). It is unjust. It is destroying the lives of people. Hence, we are observing this protest. We demand withdrawal of the fuel price hike,” Chavan told reporters.
Nirupam, who was protesting at a platform on Andheri station, suddenly jumped to the tracks to block trains. A few other Congressmen followed suit. Personnel of the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) swung into action and evicted Nirupam and his supporters from the tracks.
A group of MNS workers descended on D N Nagar metro station with banners carrying anti-government messages and stopped rail services for a brief period. They shouted slogans against the Modi government, accusing it of not fulfilling pre-poll promises.
“Agitators were evicted from Andheri and Dadar railway stations and train services were normal,” said Purushottam Karad, Deputy Commissioner of Railway Police of the Western Railway. Train services were also normal on the Central and Harbour corridors of the suburban network, considered the lifeline of Mumbai, another official said.
Auto-rickshaws and taxis were plying in limited numbers and local trains were less crowded compared to normal weekdays. In Mumbai, schools, colleges, banks and offices remained open though attendance was reported to be thin. Members of the MNS unsuccessfully tried to block motorcade of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis near Siddhivinayak Temple, where he had come for an event. They were held by security personnel deployed there.
The workers of the Raj Thackeray-led party reportedly vandalised the office of BJP corporator Vinod Mishra in Dindoshi and also deflated tyres of BEST buses in Goregaon. The normal life remained largely unaffected in the adjoining Thane and Palghar districts.
Police said no untoward incident was reported from the two districts. In certain areas of Thane, Congress, NCP and MNS workers forced shops and other establishments to down shutters. Educational institutes functioned as usual in the Thane district, where police personnel maintained vigil on the roads.
Stray incidents of protesters trying to disrupt traffic were reported from the Thane city. In Pune, protesters, allegedly belonged to the MNS, pelted stones on some buses of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) in Kumthekar Road and Market Yard areas in the morning.
Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodkhe said: “Drivers and conductors of the damaged buses told the police that MNS protesters damaged their buses. We are in the process of registering an offence in this regard.” Offices and schools remained open in Pune and normal life remained largely unaffected.
However, protesters forcefully shut shops in some areas, including Kothrud and Koregaon Park, and also some petrol pumps. In the Nashik city, about 200km from here in North Maharashtra, commercial markets and shops remained closed in response to the bandh call.
Leader of Opposition in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil of the Congress led the protest in Loni in Ahmednagar district in western Maharashtra. He and other Congress activists shouted slogans against the Modi government over fuel price hike and demanded slashing of the rates.
At Parli in Beed district of Central Maharashtra, a protest march was taken out under the leadership of NCP leader Dhananjay Munde. Munde, the Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council, also took to Twitter to hit out at the Modi government.