Shimla and several other places in the district, including Kotkhai, wore a deserted look on Thursday due to a bandh call given by the BJP and CPM, expressing doubt over the police probe in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old schoolgirl. There was also a minor incident of stone-pelting at the Secretariat, near Chotta Shimla, as the police tried to stop protesters trying to gherao the Secretariat. The police used mild force to stop them.
During the day, there was no movement of vehicles on the roads, including the national highways, as protesters blocked most important roads such as Victory Tunnel, Sanjauli, Khalini, Lakkar Bazar, Chotta Shimla and Dhali. No vehicle was allowed to enter the town or ply on the inner roads by the BJP workers, and to some extent by the CPM activists.
All shops, commercial establishments and restaurants on Mall Road and other business hotspots in Shimla remained closed even as hundreds of BJP activists and CPM cadres took out processions in the town and marched to the state Secretariat and Raj Bhavan, respectively. They were carrying banners, placards and posters pledging a struggle for justice for the victim.
“The success of the bandh could be attributed to public anger over the failure of the state government to arrest the accused. The BJP has demanded dismissal of the Virbhadra Singh government for failure to protect the lives and properties of the people. Why were pictures of suspects of rape uploaded on the CM’s Facebook page and then deleted in an hour?” asked senior BJP leader Suresh Bhardwaj. He also led a delegation to the Governor and submitted a memorandum alleging a botched-up probe by the police.
A CPM delegation, including prominent leaders such as former Mayor Sanjay Chauhan and ex-Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar, also met the Governor to submit a memorandum on the issue. CM Virbhadra Singh drove to Raj Bhavan and briefed Governor Acharya Dev Vrat about the steps taken by the state in the case and also to maintain law and order in view of protests after the custodial death of an accused. The Governor sought a detailed report from the state government on all the facts relating to the case.