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Bharat bandh evokes mixed response, sporadic violence in many states

Amid tight security, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s cavalcade reached the Secretariat, while several ministers and bureaucrats walked to their workplaces. Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty rode a two-wheeler to work.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 10, 2018 8:42:33 pm
The protest turned violent in several parts of the country. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Normal life was hit in some states on Monday with offices and educational institutes remaining closed and vehicles off the roads during an opposition-sponsored Bharat Bandh in protest against rising prices of petrol and diesel. While there were reports of violent protests from parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar, it was observed peacefully in other states. In a bid to provide some relief to the people, the Andhra government announced a reduction of Rs 2 a litre in prices of petrol and diesel.

Here is a wrap of how Bharat bandh was observed in various states

Chhattisgarh

The bandh was observed peacefully across Chhattisgarh, with most, shops, schools and colleges shut in major cities and towns. While Congress General Secretary in charge and PCC Chief Bhupesh Baghel led the bandh in Raipur, TS Singhdeo was out on the streets in Ambikapur, and AICC secretaries in charge Chandan Yadav and Arun Oraon were in Bilaspur and Jagdalpur respectively. The bandh call got a fillip on Sunday after the Chhattisgarh Chamber of Commerce announced its support. In Kondagaon, Congress workers protested by pulling motorcycles on bullock carts, while in Raipur, under leader Vikas Upadhyaya, men in masks dressed up as “petrol prices” and “LPG prices” enacted small skits where they “suffocated the common man.”

Congress protesters during the protest on Bharat Bandh on Monday in Chandigarh. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Odisha

In Odisha, the bandh was observed by Congress and the Left Parties who picketed prominent locations, such as Master Canteen Square and Vani Vihar. CPI, CPM and SUCI brought Rourkela to a complete halt. Rail services were disrupted in Sambalpur and Cuttack, while roads were blocked in Bhadrak, Anugul and Balangir districts. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik warned that allegations of indulging in violence or vandalism against any Congress worker in any part of the state will be investigated. Congress leader Narasingha Mishra demanded that the Centre reduce excise duties and the state reduce VAT. “Congress demands petroleum and all products, including cooking gas, be brought under GST”, he said.Amid tight security, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s cavalcade reached the Secretariat, while several ministers and bureaucrats walked to their workplaces. Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty rode a two-wheeler to work. The Odisha Assembly began its proceedings but was soon adjourned for the day after some Congress MLAs climbed onto the Speaker’s podium.

Rajasthan

Shops in several areas of Rajasthan remained closed during the Bharat Bandh with the police using mild force in some places to check the law and order situation from worsening. According to the police, an altercation between shop owners and bandh supporters took place in Gangapur in Bhilwara district. “We have taken one person into preventive custody and had to disperse the crowd following the bandh supporters tried to forcefully close shops. At present the situation is peaceful,” said Ramveer Jakhar, station house officer, Gangapur police station.

A bus that was vandalised by some unknown protesters during the Bharat Bandh, called over fuel price hike, in Mumbai. (PTI)

The special director general of police, law and order, NRK Reddy said that no incidents of violence were reported during the bandh. “Apart from a few areas such as Gangapur where we had to use mild force, the day remained peaceful. We had deployed large number of police personnel to control the law and order situation. In most instances, the dispute was between bandh supporters and show owners,” said Reddy. The disputes largely took place in districts of Nagaur, Bhilwara, Hanumangarh and Jaipur, said officials.

Uttarakhand

In Uttarakhand, the bandh witnessed support from the CPI, the SP, and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD). Other than a few incidents of altercations between shopkeepers and Congress workers, especially in Dehradun, where the Congress workers forced shopkeepers to shut shops, the bandh was peaceful and the markets across the state remained shut between 10 am and 2 pm. Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Pritam Singh said the bandh was “successful”, and that it received support “not only from Congress supporters but from the people who had voted for the BJP, and are now bearing the brunt of rising prices of all goods including fuel”.

However, Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt called the bandh a “flop show”. “The Congress tried to smear the image of the BJP by organising the bandh, but it failed,” Bhatt said.

Assam

The bandh was by and large successful in Assam and normal life was affected across the state — even as scores of Congress workers and leaders were detained by police as they came out on streets to protest. There were numerous reported incidences of tyres being set on fire. In Guwahati, most educational institutes, petrol pumps, shops and markets remained shut. Public transport was mostly off the streets throughout the day while at many places supporters of the bandh tried to block rail movement.

Congress leaders tried to forcibly shut shops, petrol pumps in the various states. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

In a statement, the Northeast Frontier Railway said that nine trains — including mail, express and passenger — were delayed by 20 to 80 minutes owing to “picketers obstructing tracks at various stations in Lumding and Tinsukia division”.

Kerala

The nation-wide protest of Opposition parties saw a complete shutdown in Kerala. The ruling Left Democratic Front, as well as the Congress-led Opposition, had called for the dawn to dusk bandh, which crippled normal life. Except for two-wheelers, no other vehicles could ply on roads. Services of long distance passenger buses were suspended since Sunday night. Shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained shut as people remained indoor for want of conveyance. Agitators pelted stones at cars at many places in the state. Government offices, which functioned on the day, reported thin attendance.

Madhya Pradesh

Barring sporadic incidents of protesters trying to forcibly shut down shutters, the bandh was largely peaceful in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. Congress workers took out rallies in many towns and cities asking traders and petrol pump owners to shut their outlets.

Police stop Congress workers who were staging a protest in support of the Bharat Bandh call against fuel price hike, in Meerut. (PTI Photo)

Except for an attempt in Ujjain, where Congress activists tried to forcibly shut a petrol pump leading to a scuffle with the police, no untoward incident was reported from the state. A petrol pump on Link Road No 2 in Bhopal was forcibly closed by protesters for a brief period but started functioning once they were gone. Most petrol pumps, shops and establishment and educational institutions remained open in the state capital. But the call received good support in pockets.

Congress workers protested outside a flower shop owned by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s son in Bittan Market locality.

Tamil Nadu

Police sources said government buses were plying as usual even as educational institutions and a large number of shops and commercial establishments remained open.

Karnataka

Roads in the city wore a deserted look since morning as government buses, private taxis and most of the autorickshaws did not ply. Business establishments, shops, malls, certain private enterprises remained closed. KSRTC buses kept off the road, sources said, adding city buses also did not ply.

Congress leaders and workers take part in a protest during the ‘Bharat Bandh’, called against the fuel price hike and devaluation of the rupee, in Kochi. (PTI Photo)

Andhra Pradesh

Most of the educational institutions remained closed because of the bandh. Petrol stations too remained closed. Otherwise, there has not been much of an impact due to the shutdown.

Puducherry

Public vehicles remained off roads, while stones were thrown at a Tamil Nadu government-owned express bus and a private college vehicle. More than 300 people belonging to different political parties, including the youth wing of the ruling Congress, were taken into custody when they attempted to stage a protest at the bus terminal and also at some central government offices.

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