A minor boy was killed in Nanded and several people were injured in Mumbai in sporadic incidents of violence which paralysed large parts of Maharashtra during a 10-hour shutdown called by Dalit parties on Wednesday. The ‘Maharashtra Bandh’ call was given by Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and other parties, ironically, to protest against Monday’s riots leading to the death of a youth from Nanded in Koregaon-Bhima in Pune district. District Superintendent of Police Chandrakishore Mina said the victim’s body has been sent for autopsy to ascertain the exact cause of the death. The family of the deceased alleged that the youth – Yogesh Prahlad Jadhav – was seriously injured during police caning to clear a road block. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said all the incidents of violence across the state shall be probed and appropriate action will be taken against the offenders. Dalit activists squatted on rail tracks, shouting slogans and waving flags to block train services in the city and suburbs of Mumbai, Thane and Palghar. Security forces ejected them. Despite the hiccups, the Western Railway, Central Railway and Harbour Line managed to operate services and cleared the rush of stranded commuters. Long-distance trains were not affected. The Central Railway axed 110 services and Western Railway 60. Soon after the shutdown call was withdrawn by BRM President Prakash Ambedkar at 4 p.m., suburban train services limped back to normalcy and helped clear the evening peak hour crowds. Mumbai Police confirmed that all the roads were cleared of protestors and blockades and normal traffic movement has resumed.
Flight operations at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport were affected with eight departures and seven arrivals cancelled till this evening while several hundred incoming passengers were stranded in the absence of transportation outside. A few hundred missed catching flight as they could not reach the airport. The airport made arrangements for free tea, snacks and water bottles till evening when the city normalized. Hundreds of Dalits thronged Dahisar checkpost, the critical entry point to Mumbai, and staged a road blockade, preventing traffic movement in both directions. Stones were pelted at vehicles in parts of Goregaon, Jogeshwari, Powai, Bhandup, Chembur, Govandi and Andheri East in Mumbai and parts of Navi Mumbai. Schools and colleges remained open in Mumbai and other parts of the state but most students remained absent. The famed dabbawalas cancelled their services for the day.
Aurangabad University rescheduled exams as candidates could not make it to the centres. The University of Mumbai cancelled nine scheduled examinations. Although many taxi and auto-rickshaw unions supported the shutdown, Mumbai’s suburban trains and BEST (Bombay Electric Supply and Transport) bus services plied with disruptions. Meanwhile, 48 BEST buses were damaged in stone-pelting incidents in parts of Mumbai and four drivers and conductors injured. Many shops, eateries and business establishments which opened in the city and suburbs later downed shutters after some restaurants were stoned or vandalised. The shutdown evoked greater response in mofussil areas compared to urban pockets of Thane, Nagpur, Pune and other cities. The coastal Konkan region reported a near total shutdown as did the Dalit strongholds of Marathwada like Beed, Latur, Solapur, Jalgaon, Dhule, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Palghar.
The busy Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Goa and Mumbai-Nashik highways were blocked for varying periods, leading to massive traffic snarls. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corp (MSRTC) suspended services in sensitive districts after 187 buses were damaged. The Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Dalit party headed by Prakash Ambedkar — the grandson of B.R. Ambedkar — termed the shutdown as “successful”. “We are satisfied with the judicial probe announced by the government and hope the truth will emerge. The government must book the perpetrators of the Koregaon-Bhim riots and the death of a youth for murder charges,” Ambedkar told mediapersons. Ambedkar named Shivjagar Pratisthan President Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti President Milind Ekbote, against whom complaints have been lodged by Pune Police. “They should be arrested and face the same punishment as Yakub Memon (who was accused in the March 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts and subsequently hanged),” Ambedkar demanded. The shutdown was a fallout of Monday’s riots in Koregaon-Bhima during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha War of January 1, 1818. Members of the Dalit community had gathered around the Victory Pillar erected by the British in Sanaswadi village when stone pelting started leading to the death of 28-year-old Rahul Fatangale.