Protest march led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi with support from Opposition parties, suspension of public transport services in Kerala, disruption of train services in Odisha and Bihar, detention of Congress and Opposition workers in several states, and sporadic incidents of violence in some parts of the country. This is largely what marked the six-hour nationwide shutdown called on Monday by Opposition parties led by Congres against the rising fuel prices.
While schools, offices and business establishments remained closed in some parts of the country, normal life remained unaffected. Protests that took place in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Goa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were largely peaceful.
Twenty-one parties, besides a number of chambers of commerce and traders’ association, participated in the stir and demanded the inclusion of petrol and diesel under the Goods and Services Tax, which would make oil prices drop by about Rs 15 to Rs 18.
Rahul Gandhi attacks PM Modi, says country being divided
Rahul Gandhi, who joined the agitation immediately after his return from Kailash Mansarovar, questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over the rising fuel prices. Addressing a protest rally with various opposition parties at the Ramlila grounds in the national capital, Gandhi alleged that the country is being divided and expressed confidence that the united opposition will defeat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“Narendra Modi used to say that nothing has happened in 70 years and we will do that in four years. It is true, what he has done in four years has not happened in 70 years. Wherever you see, one Indian is fighting another. Wherever you go, they divide people — one religion with another, one caste with another and one state pitted against the other,” he said.
Ramping up the attack against the government, Rahul said it is unfortunate that the pain of the people of the country, including farmers, youth and women, is being shared by opposition leaders present at the event but not by the prime minister. “This is the difference between them and us. We promise from here that we will unitedly work together to remove the BJP,” he said.
Modi govt has crossed the limit: Manmohan Singh
Joining the Congress chief and mounting an attack on the NDA government, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said it was time for all opposition parties to shed their differences and move forward unitedly “to save” sovereignty and democracy in the country. “The Modi government has done a lot which is not in national interest. Now it has crossed the limit and time is coming to change it,” he said.
Urging all parties to keep their differences aside and unite to save the country and democracy, Singh said, “Time for all parties to shed their issues and move forward unitedly … it is possible only when you keep aside your own small issues and be ready to save the unity, sovereignty and democracy in the country.”
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also present at the rally but did not make an address.
Fuel price hike because of global factors: Ravi Shankar Prasad
Dubbing the bandh as an attempt to spread rumour and confusion among the masses, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad sought a response from the Congress on incidents of violence reported from certain parts of the country. “In a democracy, everybody is welcomed to protest, but is violence acceptable? The Congress party must answer who is responsible for the burning of buses and vandalising of the petrol pumps,” he said.
Explaining that rising fuel prices were momentary and caused by global factors, Prasad said the hike in oil prices was caused by limited supply. “We are standing with the people in their concern, but this is a problem whose solution is not in our hands,” he said.
Congress’s slogan for #BharatBandh:
Rahul Gandhi Murdabad
Narendra Modi Zindabad
Don’t believe us?
Watch this! pic.twitter.com/roTKscouEW
— BJP (@BJP4India) September 10, 2018
“The Modi government has worked a lot to bring down inflation and has achieved success as well, Prasad said, adding that inflation was 10.4 per cent between 2009-14 of UPA rule and is now 4.7 per cent.”
In states like Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar, Odisha and Arunachal Pradesh life was hit by the shutdown.
In Odisha, train services were disrupted in many places as Congress workers blocked railway tracks to enforce the bandh. At least 10 trains were cancelled. Vehicle movement also came to a grinding halt in many places as Congress workers blocked roads. Buses, taxis and autorickshaws stayed off the roads.
In Kerala, both public and private transport buses and autorickshaws stayed off roads.
The bandh evoked a mixed response in Telangana. The police took scores of workers of the Congress, Left and TDP into custody when they held protests and prevented buses from plying. AICC secretary Srinivasan Krishnan and 40 others were taken into preventive custody in Karimnagar town.
Roads in Bangalore wore a deserted look as government buses, private taxis and most autorickshaws did not ply. Businesses, shops, malls, some private enterprises remained closed.
In Jharkhand, 58 Congress activists were taken into police custody for forcibly trying to enforce the bandh.
Almost all schools, colleges and offices were open in West Bengal where examinations were held as scheduled.
In Tamil Nadu, normal life largely remained unaffected. However, autorickshaws affiliated to trade unions participating in the shutdown kept off the roads, they said.
In Arunachal Pradesh, shops and business establishments remained closed and private vehicles stayed off the roads. In the state capital, about 100 Congress activists were arrested.
Violence reported in Bihar, Gujarat, Pune
The protests against soaring fuel prices took a violent turn in Bihar when bandh supporters belonging to RJD, CPM and CPI(M) indulged in vandalism and burnt tyres on railway tracks, thereby disrupting the movement of trains. While private schools and a number of business establishments largely remained closed, government banks and offices continued to function normally.
The agitation also turned ugly in Pune when suspected Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers reportedly vandalised buses to protest the rising fuel prices.
Nearly 300 Congress functionaries were detained in Gujarat as burning tyres blocked roads and affected bus services in several areas.
Two-year-old dies in Bihar: Reports
In Jehanabad district, a two-year-old girl died while being taken to a hospital for treatment. According to unconfirmed reports, the deceased’s family blamed the death on the delay in finding a three-wheeler to ferry the girl to hospital. However, there was no confirmation of the incident at the time of writing this report.
AAP’s U-turn on protest
Aam Aadmi Party leaders, who had distanced itself from the pan-India shutdown on Sunday, shared the dais with top Congress leaders and those from other parties at the rally in the national capital today. While senior leader Sanjay Singh joined the stir at Ramlila Maidan, East Delhi in-charge Atishi joined the protests at Jantar Mantar.
.@AamAadmiParty leader and East Delhi Lok Sabha prabhari @Atishi addressing a protest march at Jantar Mantar against rising fuel prices, with CPI(M) leaders @SitaramYechury, D Raja, AAP MLA @AapManojMLA pic.twitter.com/40GrJGLHNy
— Aam Aadmi Party Delhi (@AAPDelhi) September 10, 2018
Left calls for 12-hour strike in West Bengal
While the Congress called for a six-hour bandh, the CPI(M)-led Left Front decided to observe a shutdown for 12 hours, that is, from 6 am to 6 pm today. The ruling Trinamool Congress had expressed support on the issues, including the depreciation of the rupee, but said it was against a bandh.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines