Railway and road traffic were hampered in Mumbai on Wednesday after Dalit activists called for a bandh across Maharashtra. They began their protest after a man was killed in clashes during celebrations in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on Monday.
Lakhs of people gather every New Year’s Day to commemorate the victory of the English, whose troops comprised mostly Mahar soldiers, against the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha Empire in 1818. Many Dalits celebrate the defeat of the Peshwas as the first step in their continuing struggle against caste-based oppression. On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on Monday, there was violence in Bhima Koregaon and surrounding areas after some people, reportedly with saffron flags, pelted stones at cars going towards the village.
On Tuesday, protests against the attack soon broke out in Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and other cities in Maharashtra. On Wednesday, Dalit activists took to the streets of Mumbai, where they shouted slogans, blocked traffic and even damaged buses in several areas of the city.
Here are the latest updates:
7.25 pm: A 16-year-old student was killed in violence during a “rasta roko” (road block) agitation in Nanded city, the Hindustan Times reported. The boy’s family alleged that he sustained serious injuries during a baton charge by police officials. His body has been sent for autopsy.
5.43 pm: “An inquiry will be conducted into the incidents of violence that took place across Maharashtra,” Fadnavis tells reporters. “We are monitoring the CCTV footage of the violence”.
5.39 pm: Prakash Ambedkar’s call for a shutdown resonates in Amravati district of Maharashtra. A total bandh was observed in the region, Firstpost reported. Protestors submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, demanding that those involved in the violence at Bhima Koregaon be booked under the National Security Act and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
5.34 pm: Maratha outfit Sakal Kranti Morcha demands action against the violent protestors. “We respect the sentiments of Dalits, but condemn the violence in the state,” an unidentified member of the group told the Hindustan Times. “The government must nab the culprits who started communal trouble.”
5.09 pm: Mumbai Metro resumes normal services from Versova to Ghatkopar.
4.59 pm: Traffic along the Eastern Express Highway is clear till Thane, says Mumbai Police.
4.55 pm: Mumbai Police says traffic on the Western Express Highway is clear till Dahisar Naka, both north- and sound-bound.
4.32 pm: Besides Mumbai, much of the effects of the bandh were felt in Aurangabad and Pune. Scroll.in’s Mridula Chari reported live from Pune.
4.24 pm: Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of BR Ambedkar and leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, withdraws the call for a statewide bandh in Maharashtra.
“Whatever justice Yakub Memon got, the same should be meted out to Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide,” he says, referring to the two men believed to be behind the violence at Bhima Koregaon on Monday.
4.22 pm: Central Railway says all paths along the route are clear. “Services are being normalised. No need to panic.”
4.20 pm: Aurangabad Police starts combing operations to arrest protestors resorting to violence in several areas. At least 35 perpetrators in custody so far, reports Firstpost.
4.16 pm: The Mumbai Police advise commuters heading to the airport from South Mumbai to follow the diversion at the Haji Ali Naka.
4.14 pm: Western Railway says there is no disruption along the WR railway route. “Suburban and long distance services are running on all lines,” it says. “Efforts being made to provide local trains at regular interval/every 10 minutes during evening peak hours.”
4.03 pm: Traffic starts to ease along the Western Express Highway, reports Firstpost. The stretch along Thakur village is still blocked. Intermittent protests reported from the western suburbs.
4.01 pm: Minister of State for Home (Rural) Deepak Kesarkar says the situation is peaceful in Maharashtra and no member of the Dalit community had died.
3.57 pm: The police have been asked to not use force against demonstrators as long as their agitations remain peaceful, the Hindustan Times reports, quoting Maharashtra government officials.
3.47 pm: Protestors set a vehicle on fire in Vikhroli near the Godrej facility, reports Firstpost.
3.41 pm: Dalit groups block the highway in Kandivali and shout slogans.
3.36 pm: The protests spread to Mumbai’s Kanjur Marg Station.
3.22 pm: Protestors from various parts of Pune join the agitation called as part of the Maharashtra bandh.
3.14 pm: Protestors block traffic on the Western Express Highway near Thakur village.
3.12 pm: Dalit protestors shout “Jai Bhim” slogans and block a train at Sion Station.
3.09 pm: University of Mumbai issues a circular, postponing a number of exams for students who could not sit for them on Wednesday.
3.08 pm: As many as 48 BEST buses damaged and four drivers injured in demonstrations, Mumbai Mirror reports.
3.04 pm: Protestors block traffic in Powai and vandalise cars that were forced to stop. (deferred visuals)
2.55 pm: PTI report stone pelting and road blocks in Nagpur. Several markets and most schools are closed. Protest marches were taken out in sensitive localities.
2.53 pm: Agitating groups block traffic in Mulund.
2.48 pm: Protests at Ghatkopar Station turn violent. There are reports of a fight between commuters in a women’s compartment in a train and protestors. The doors are now locked from the inside. Protestors confiscate mobile phones and break cameras.
2.47 pm: Protestors vandalise a bus on Dandekar Road in Mumbai, PTI reports.
2.37 pm: Firstpost reports vandalism at Dombivali Station.
2.34 pm: Dalit protestors block the highway between Malad and Goregaon and shout slogans. (deferred visuals)
2.31 pm: RSS leader Manmohan Vedya says the right-wing body was being maligned and had no role in provoking Dalit activists to stage the agitations.
2.22 pm: Western Railway says Dalit groups stopped a train heading to Churchgate at Goregaon Station. “All efforts are being made to evacuate them from the tracks.”
2.20 pm: Protestors gather at Chembur Station Road – one of the worst affected areas of the city in Tuesday’s protests.
2.15 pm: Dalit groups block SV Road in Bandra West and shout “Jai Bhim” (deferred visuals).
2.09 pm: Security heightened in Aurangabad after protestors pelted stones and vandalised vehicles.
2.07 pm: Dalit protestors block the road leading to Sion Flyover.
2.01 pm: Protestors gather near the Sion flyover on Wednesday afternoon.
1.59 pm: Mumbai police says traffic has been diverted from Haji Ali Junction to Mahalaxmi and Senapati Bapat Marg.
1.55 pm: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad criticises the Bharatiya Janata Party government, saying Dalits have been facing atrocities “ever since the party came to power”.
1.35 pm: Roads in Bhayandar are blocked as Dalit activists conduct a protest march.
1.31 pm: Railway services on the Western and Central lines affected at Dadar.
1.18 pm: Protestors block a stretch of the Western Express Highway near Andheri.
1.16 pm: Mumbai Police says the Eastern Express Highway has been cleared for traffic.
1.07 pm: Protestors vandalise buses and a car in Powai.
12.56 pm: Western Railways cancels services of its newly introduced AC local. Other suburban services are running amid intermittent protests at Elphinstone Road, Goregaon, Dadar and Malad stations. Long distance trains are running as scheduled.
12.50 pm: Mumbai Police asks commuters to avoid Worli Naka and use the Worli Sea Face road instead. Thane Police warn commuters of traffic jams at some spots, but say their teams are clearing all blocks.
12.48 pm: Metro services between Ghatkopar and Airport Road have been shut down for “security reasons”. Trains are only running between Airport Road and Versova.
12.45 pm: Protests are on in Khar.
12.38 pm: Mumbai Police divert traffic as protestors block the Eastern Expressway near Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar. Commuters have been advised to avoid the route.
12.36 pm: Western Railway clears protestors blocking tracks at the Goregaon Station. Train services have resumed but are running late.
12.34 pm: Mallikarjun Kharge says in Lok Sabha that Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot stay silent on such matters. He calls for a Supreme Court judge to investigate the Bhima Koregaon violence.
12.30 pm: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raises the violence triggered by the clashes in Bhima Koregaon in Lok Sabha. He asks who instigated and interfered in the matter to worsen the situation.
12.27 pm: Security has been heightened outside the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.
12.20 pm: Buses and autos have been vandalised in Thane’s Chendani Koliwada area. Four passengers have been injured in the attack.
12.14 pm: Protests are being held opposite Infiniti Mall in Andheri West.
12.10 pm: Here are some visuals from Virar station from earlier today. Protestors have blocked the tracks, affecting train services on the Western line.
12.01 pm: Protestors have blocked roads in Bandra West, Kalanagar and Bhayandar.
11.52 am: Mumbai Metro services have been affected between Asalpha and Ghatkopar stations.
11.47 am: There are reports of protests in Nagpur, too, according to ANI.
11.45 am: Protests were reported from various parts of Mumbai.
11.33 am: 13 BEST buses have been damaged in stone-pelting, the Hindustan Times reported.
11.30 am: Hundreds of activists block the Eastern Express Highway in Ghatkopar, News18 reported. They have staged a bike rally in Thane near the Cadbury junction. At least 500 others are marching from Vartak Nagar Bus Stop to the junction, according to the Hindustan Times.
11.21 am: In Thane’s Waghle area, a large number of people have reportedly gathered to hold protests. In Thane West, activists are stopping municipal buses and autos from plying, Mumbai Mirror reported.
11.18 am: The Mumbai Police ask commuters to avoid the MMRDA Junction as protestors hold a road block there.
11.10 am: “Train services on the Central Railway main, harbour and transharbour lines are running smoothly, except for a few minutes of agitation at Diwa, Titwala and Vasind,” Firstpost quoted public relations officer Sunil Udasi as saying. Udasi says the agitation delayed trains for 5 minutes to 10 minutes.
Western Railway says protestors cleared from tracks at Nalasopara and Virar stations.
11 am: Commuters in Mumbai take to social media to ask Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and railway authorities for help.
10.40 am: Western Railway services are delayed as protestors block tracks at Nalasopara, Virar and Goregaon stations. The railways said it has cleared protestors at Goregaon and Virar services have resumed but are running late.
10.30 am: State bus services from Karnataka to Maharashtra have been suspended. Protesters stop buses and auto-rickshaws, and deflate bus tyres at Thane’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Road.
10.25 am: BEST buses are not running on the Kandivli-Akurli, Dindoshi-Hanuman Nagar, Chandivali-Sangharsh Nagar, Khairani Rd- Sakinaka, Sahar Cargo, Mulund Check Naka, Jijamata Nagar routes, Firstpost reported.
10.10 am: Internet services have been suspended in Aurangabad
10 am: Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal and Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajni Patil give an adjournment motion notice in the Rajya Sabha on the Bhima Koregaon violence. Communist Party of India’s D Raja gives a zero hour notice in Rajya Sabha over “increasing atrocities against Dalits”.
9.15 am: Many schools are shut for the day. “Won’t run school buses in Mumbai today, can’t risk students’ safety and security,” Anil Garg, School Bus Owners’ Association said.
9 am: The Mumbai Dabbawallas Association says it will not run its delivery service today, the Hindustan Times reported.
8.45 am: Protesters try to disrupt railway services at Thane but were cleared by RPF and GRP officials, ANI quotes Central Railways as saying. Services from Thane are delayed.
8.30 am: Section 144, prohibiting more than 10 people assembling in a people place, has been imposed in Thane till January 4 midnight, ANI reported.