Maharashtra: BEST buses stoned during bandh, normal life unaffected

Simran Kashyap

Mumbai, January 24: Isolated incidents of stone-pelting were reported from parts of Maharashtra on Friday during the statewide 'bandh' called by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar's party against the CAA and the NRC, but normal life remained largely unaffected.

The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) called for the statewide shutdown to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and also over economic issues. Ambedkar claimed around VBA 150 workers were detained in Mumbai since Thursday night.

The driver of a BEST (civic undertaking) bus suffered injuries after stones were pelted on the vehicle in Mumbai's eastern suburb of Chembur, an official said.

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The incident took place at around 9.15 am when some unidentified persons pelted stones at the bus heading towards Kurla station on route number 362, said a spokesperson of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST). Its driver, Vilas Dabhade, was wounded and rushed to Shatabdi Hospital in suburban Govandi, he said, adding no harm was caused to any of the passengers.

Suburban and outstation trains on both the Central and Western Railways in Mumbai, Metro, monorail services, taxis and auto-rickshaws were plying normally in the financial capital.

"There have been no reports of any attempt to stop taxis from plying," taxi union leader AL Quadros said. Tight security was in place at all train stations and no untoward incident has been reported till now, a Railway official said. Stray incidents of stone-pelting on city buses were also reported from Solapur and Aurangabad districts, police said.

In Solapur, two unidentified men pelted stones at a city bus near Budhwar Peth, damaging its windshield, an official said. "Two unidentified persons pelted stones at a city bus at around 9 am, damaging the windshield," an officer attached to the Faujdar Chawdi police station said.

In Aurangabad city, stones were pelted on a bus, in which window panes were shattered, the police added. The bandh received a poor response in Pune and Ahmednagar districts, where public transport remained largely unaffected, while commercial establishments and schools were open, they said.

A group of 20 to 24 people tried to block a road near Dandekar Bridge on Sinhagad Road in Pune, but were soon dispersed, officials said.

In another incident in Pune, a group of people stopped four to five civic buses on Dandekar Bridge but were quickly scattered, said Anant Waghmare, head of the traffic department at Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd. "Our all operations are going on smoothly and there is no report of any untoward incident," he added.

Joint Commissioner of Police Ravindra Shisave said adequate security arrangements have been made in Pune. Ambedkar said India's economy is in a bad shape.

"I think what we wanted to convey to the people through the protest has been conveyed. People feel embarrassed when their families glide into financial crisis. "Similarly, the country's economy is in a bad shape...the situation is such that the country maybe heading towards bankruptcy," the Dalit leader told Marathi news channel 'ABP Majha'.

"Our workers were being detained since yesterday night itself in Maharashtra. I don't have exact figures, but around 150 workers were detained in Mumbai till morning. I reiterate there will be no violence," Ambedkar said.

The Prakash Ambedkar-led party has claimed the support of over 50 political and social organisations apart from labour unions for the bandh. He noted that several NGOs and citizen groups had demonstrated against the CAA and the NRC, but no political party had done so till now.

"That's why we are staging protests over the CAA and the NRC. In addition to this, people's attention is being diverted from economic issues. We are flagging these issues," Ambedkar said. One the functionaries of the VBA, M N Kamble, appealed to people to take part in the bandh and protest peacefully. The police had issued notices to some of the people from the party after the bandh call was given, Kamble claimed.

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