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Student protests turn violent in Mumbai and Nagpur, FIRs registered

🔴 The protests took a violent turn in Mumbai and Nagpur, with some students damaging private and police vehicles by pelting stones and blocking roads.

Maharashtra, Maharashtra latest news, Maharashtra student protest, Mumbai latest news, Mumbai student protest, Varsha Gaikwad, indian expressWhile protests at Jalgaon and Aurangabad remained peaceful, at Mumbai and Nagpur, local police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the mob of students, most of whom were minors.

A large number of students across various cities in the state, including Mumbai, held protests on Monday, demanding the cancellation of offline board exams for Class 10 and 12 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The protests took a violent turn in Mumbai and Nagpur, with some students damaging private and police vehicles by pelting stones and blocking roads. While protests at Jalgaon and Aurangabad remained peaceful, at Mumbai and Nagpur, local police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the mob of students, most of whom were minors.

Around 1,000 to 1,500 students gathered outside the Dharavi residence of state School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad between 12 pm to 4 pm on Monday. Police said the crowd gradually swelled around 3 pm, when many students from far- off places like Thane, Kalyan, Badlapur, Vasai, Virar and places in Navi Mumbai reached the spot using local trains.

Divisional Assistant Commissioner of Police, Suresh Jadhav, told The Indian Express, “Only some students in the crowd acted like goons and took to violence. They broke the glasses of a few private vehicles…”. To disperse the crowd, police resorted to lathi-charging the students.

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A traffic police official said, “There were around 1,000 to 1,500 students. They choked the Sant Rohidas Marg in Dharavi near Sion railway station and we had to divert the traffic on that road for around two hours. The traffic was moving slowly due to the protest.”

The call for the protest was given by a social media influencer Vikas Fhatak, alias ‘Hindustani Bhau’, who allegedly makes abusive videos on social media.

On January 29, Fhatak had uploaded a video on his fan page account on Instagram, asking students to come out and “peacefully protest” against the government’s decision with him in Dharavi outside the residence of Gaikwad.

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He also appealed to students across Maharashtra to visit education offices in their region with the same demand. The videos are available on his social media handle.

As they gathered near Gaikwad’s residence in Dharavi, students were heard shouting slogans demanding justice. According to them, they are not prepared to appear for the board exam that is to begin in March. While their primary demand is to cancel the exam, protesters said if the exam has to be held, it should be held online.

“Until and unless the pandemic is over, there should not be exams. Many students have already lost their lives due to depression. Due to online classes, many have lost out on academics without adequate access. The government should cancel the exam, considering the physical and mental health of these students. Otherwise, hold an online exam, just as the studies were done online,” Fhatak had said in one of his videos.

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Fathak, too, was present at the protest spot. He was escorted away by police after students started getting restless. The police subsequently had to use force to disperse the students.

A police officer from Dharavi police station said, “Around 100 to 150 police personnel from local police, zonal police and local arms were at the spot to disperse the crowd. An SRPF team was also brought in. Two to three police vehicles were damaged and other private vehicles were damaged as well. The students were throwing paver blocks. Hindustani Bhau had to be escorted from the spot as a lot of crowd had gathered around him… arresting him would have created more issues at the spot. We will arrest him later. An FIR is being registered against him and others for rioting, unlawful assembly, damage to public property and obstructing public servant from discharging duties.”

The Maharashtra government, meanwhile, has said that it is unwilling to reconsider its decision to hold offline exams. A meeting has been called by Gaikwad to discuss the topic with officials and students on Tuesday. At the time of going to press, the Mumbai Police was in the process of registering an FIR against the students and Fhatak. No one has been arrested in connection with the protests so far.

In a related development, 200-odd students protested in Ajni in Nagpur. The students blocked the road and also broke the glass of a private bus by pelting stones.

Nagpur city Police Commissioner Amitesh Kumar told The Indian Express, “We have registered two separate FIRs, one for unlawful assembly and rioting and another for damage to property. No arrests were made as most of the students were minors.”

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The Maharashtra government has, meanwhile, given orders to initiate an inquiry into the state-wide protests.

State Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil told the media, “I have given orders to the police department to check what all factors led to the incident. In the last two days, some videos went viral in which provocation was given to protest in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. This was a planned protest carried out by some organisations and we will take appropriate action against them. About the issues raised by students, the education minister and chief minister will look into the matter and will find an appropriate solution.”

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In Jalgaon’s Bhusaval Taluka, 10 to 12 students gave a letter to the collector and at Jilhapeth, another 100 students gave a letter to the collector on the matter. Similarly, in the jurisdiction of Aurangabad’s city chowk police station, nearly 30 students went to the collector and submitted a letter. All of them have requested the government to conduct online exams.

No untoward incident took place at Jalgaon or Aurangabad.

First published on: 01-02-2022 at 02:40:54 am
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