MUMBAI: Widespread protests were witnessed across Maharashtra on Tuesday against the violence that erupted on Monday at an event to commemorate the Battle of Koregaon – considered a heroic episode in Dalit history -- with demonstrators damaging buses, blocking roads and forcing shops to shut down. In Mumbai, the protesters blocked the harbour line of the suburban railway, putting services out of gear for around six hours.
A call for a statewide bandh on Wednesday has been given by Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and chief of the Bhartiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh.
“The bandh on Wednesday would be peaceful. But people should not keep shops open just to instigate violence,” Prakash said at a news conference.
Prakash blamed right-wing leaders Sambhajai Bhide and Milind Ekbote for Monday’s violence. Both have denied the charges. However, an official complaint was lodged against them at Pimpri Chinchwad, after which a case was registered.
On Tuesday morning, the protests were first reported from Aurangabad city, where people returning from Bhima Koregaon forced shopkeepers to shut their shops and pelted vehicles with stones. Nanded, Hingli, Beed and Jalna were the other towns in Marathawada where protests were witnessed. Police have enforced prohibitory orders in Aurangabad.
Similar reports of stone pelting and closure of shops were received from Ahmednagar, Akola, Solapur, Dhule and Shirdi. Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar visited the Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar where the skirmishes occurred on Monday and said that those who resorted to violence would not be spared.
In Mumbai, the protests began around 10.30 am at Chembur with demonstrators waving flags and shouting slogans. They then started blocking roads. Soon, more protests were reported from Mankhurd, Govandi, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Powai, Mulund, Thane and Dombiwali. Shops and businesses were forced to shut in several places.
After damaging a bus at Chembur and blocking roads at various places, the protesters staged a rail roko at Chembur suburban railway station. At the same time, protestors at Govandi and Mankhurd also resorted to rail roko, disrupting services on the Harbour Line.
Prakash Ambedkar said the Maharashtra Democratic Front, Maharashtra Left Front and 250 organisations would back Wednesday’s bandh. He alleged that the perpetrators of the violence had the “tacit support” of the Fadnavis government.