Bharat Bandh: Sporadic violence, disruptions witnessed in western states

In Maharashtra, as many as 14 buses of civic undertaking BEST were vandalised

In Mumbai, schools, colleges, banks and offices remained open though attendance was reported to be thin | Janak D. Bhatt In Mumbai, schools, colleges, banks and offices remained open though attendance was reported to be thin | Janak D. Bhatt

Sporadic violence, traffic disruptions and processions marked the 'Bharat Bandh' in the states of the western region called by the Congress and other opposition parties Monday to protest against the rising fuel prices.

The shutdown call evoked mixed response in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat.

While the Congress and other opposition parties said the bandh was a success, the ruling BJP contested it.

However, in Goa the Congress did not observe the shutdown because of the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities.

Its leaders in the state visited fuel pumps to apprise people of the Centre's policies, which the party claimed, had led to the skyrocketing of the fuel prices.

Schools, colleges and shopping establishments remained closed at a number of places in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Gujarat, officials said.

Protesters targeted buses, including some school vehicles, and disrupted rail traffic at some places in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, the officials said.

At some places, petrol pumps were also targeted.

The bandh call given by the Congress was backed by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the Samajwadi Party, the Peasants and Workers' Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

In Maharashtra, as many as 14 buses of civic undertaking BEST were vandalised by protesters in various parts of Mumbai, a spokesperson of the transport utility said.

Most of the buses were attacked in Central Mumbai and suburban Chembur, he said.

In Pune, three buses of a private school were stoned and damaged early morning when they were on their way to pick up the students, its management said.

No one was injured in the incident and the police is investigating the case.

In Mumbai, schools, colleges, banks and offices remained open though attendance was reported to be thin.

Workers of the opposition parties staged protests in various parts of the BJP-ruled Maharashtra.

They briefly disrupted transport services by stopping suburban trains and metro rail at various places in Mumbai.

Nearly 100 Congress leaders and workers were detained during the protest in Mumbai, a police official said.

Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan, who led the party's protest in the state, travelled by a local train to Andheri railway station, before staging a 'rail roko' (stopping the trains) there.

Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, who was protesting at a platform on Andheri station, suddenly jumped on to the tracks to block trains. A few other Congressmen followed suit.

Personnel of the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) swung into action and evicted Nirupam and his supporters from the tracks.

A group of MNS workers descended on D N Nagar metro station with banners carrying anti-government messages and stopped rail services for a brief period.

They shouted slogans against the Modi government, accusing it of not fulfilling pre-poll promises.

The officials said they ensured normal services of the local trains, which are considered the lifeline of Mumbai.

Auto-rickshaws and taxis plied in limited numbers and local trains were less crowded compared to normal weekdays.

Members of the MNS unsuccessfully tried to block motorcade of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis near Siddhivinayak Temple, where he had come for an event. They were held by security personnel deployed there.

The workers of the Raj Thackeray-led party reportedly vandalised the office of BJP corporator Vinod Mishra in Dindoshi and also deflated tyres of BEST buses in Goregaon.

In Madhya Pradesh too, the bandh evoked mixed response amid sporadic violence and attempts to disrupt the train services.

While the MP Congress called the shutdown successful in the state, the ruling BJP accused the former of adopting "anarchic" ways to intimidate people to enforce the bandh.

Congress workers across the state took out rallies and held protests outside commercial establishments and fuel pumps that were open.

Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) Makrand Deuskar told reporters here, "About 110 protesters were arrested under section 151of CrPC when they were forcing for a shut down. This number may go up. Three FRIs were filed in state respectively at Ujjain, Jabalpur and Katni."

In Bhopal, a flower shop owned by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's son Kartikey was at the centre of a protest by Congress workers.

The shop, situated in Ravishankar Market here, later downed the shutter, Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said.

A mixed response to the bandh was witnessed in Chhattisgarh too.

Many business establishments remained shut in major cities including Raipur and buses stayed off roads.

No untoward incident was, however, reported from any part of the state, according to the police.

AICC Chhattisgarh in-charge and senior leader PL Punia, state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel joined the party workers in Raipur in appealing to businessmen to down their shutters.

The Chhattisgarh Chamber of Commerce (CCC) had supported the shutdown.

Passengers were inconvenienced as most of the state transport buses didn't ply in Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund and Bilaspur districts, joined by auto rickshaws in Raipur.

Almost all petrol pumps remained shut in Raipur till late afternoon. Private schools also remained closed for the day.

In Gujarat, schools were shut in areas including Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Mehsana and there were reports of Congress workers forcing petrol pumps to down shutters in some parts of the state.

In Rajkot, government schools remained open while private schools declared a holiday.

Roads in some areas, including Chhotaudepur and Surat, were blocked with burning tyres by protesting Congress workers while bus services were affected in many areas like Rajkot, Amreli and Ahmedabad.

The police said over 300 Congress functionaries, including state party chief Amit Chavda and Gujarat party in- charge Rajiv Satav, were detained.

In Goa, All India Congress Committee secretary A Chellakumar told reporters that the state unit of the Congress was not observing the shutdown as Goa is getting ready for Ganesh Chaturthi festivities.

"We dont want people to suffer because of the bandh as they are busy in last minute shopping for Ganesh Chaturthi. That is is why we decided to visit petrol pumps and create awareness among people," Chellakumar said.