CHANDIGARH: Himachal Pradesh capital Shimla observed a total shutdown on Thursday following the bandh call given by the Opposition BJP against the tardy handling of the rape and murder case of a schoolgirl in Kotkhai.
The incident has triggered State-wide agitation in the last fifteen days and took a serious turn after an accused in the case was murdered by the main accused in jail.
Former State BJP president and MLA Suresh Bhardwaj alleged that the State government was shielding the real culprits. “The death of one of the accused Suraj in police custody has raised serious doubts about the functioning of the police,” he said.
The saffron party had on Wednesday announced that it would take out a procession and gherao the State secretariat, besides submitting a memorandum to the Governor demanding Presidential rule in the State.
The bandh evoked massive response. All markets were closed and the supply of daily commodities like milk, bread, vegetables was severely hit, causing inconvenience to locals and tourists. All the entry and exit points of Shimla were blocked and BJP workers staged a dharna at Victory Tunnel. The road from Dhalli to Sanjauli was blocked by residents of Chopal. The Hindustan-Tibet National Highway at Theog was also blocked by protesters.
All buses were off the road, barring a few private vehicles. People from various walks of life — employees, businessmen, social activists and even members of trade bodies gathered at the DC office in Shimla to express solidarity with the family of the victim, and marched towards Raj Bhawan.
Former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal said that he had asked the party workers to maintain peace and that no damage should be caused to public and private property. Patients going to hospital and ambulances were allowed to pass. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also appealed to the protesters to maintain peace. The State police was deployed in large numbers to avoid any untoward situation.