Pune City Police lathicharged protesters with hearing impairment when they tried to take out a rally from the Commissionerate of Social Welfare on Monday afternoon demanding better educational facilities and reservation in government jobs, among others. The protesters, however, continued to stage a protest at the spot till late evening. Late into the night, city BJP MP Anil Shirole said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has sought a report on the incident.
Hundreds of people, with hearing impairment, from different parts of the state, mainly associated with the Rajyastariya Karnabadhir Association, had gathered at the Commissionerate for Social Welfare on the Church Road in Pune around 10 am on Monday.
With the help of interpreters, they went to the office of the commissioner for persons with disabilities, on the same premises, with various demands. Some of the demands were provision of better educational facilities, more teachers who can teach different subjects in sign language, action against those seeking fake disability certificates, appointments and reservations in government jobs, provision of driving licence and providing space for setting up juice centres in government offices and hospitals.
The protesters also opposed the recent transfer of IAS officer Balaji Manjule, who was the commissioner for persons with disabilities, Pune.
Around 2.30 pm, the protesters tried to take out a rally. The police stopped them, stating that no permission had been taken for the march. However, as the protesters started walking and pushed the barricades put up in the area, the police personnel present at the spot lathicharged them.
Atiya Hajee, an interpreter for Aniket Selgaokar, the vice president of Rajyastariya Karnabadhir Association, said: “About 33 protesters got injured in the incident. Today (Monday), was our third protest before the commissioner for persons with disabilities. Despite repeated attempts, no government official or elected representative came forward to fulfil our demands. We only tried to walk peacefully without causing any law and order problems. But still, the police attacked us. ”
A police team, including the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Pritee Tipare and Senior Inspector M M Mujawar of Bundgarden police station, were on duty at the spot. “Protesters had informed about their protest and 1,500-2,000 protesters had gathered accordingly. But they had not sought any permission for a rally. As they pushed the barricades, we had to use mild force for controlling them,” said ACP Tipare.
He added: “As they started marching, we detained about 150 protesters in police vehicles…The situation was under control. But around 2.30 pm, a leader said something in sign language and after that they started pushing the barricades. We had to apply minor force to control the situation. If it was not done in time, a stampede-like situation might have occurred.” Mujawar said the police did not lathicharge. Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Shivaji Bodkhe said: “There was neither a lathicharge nor excess use of force. The police had to step in, otherwise there could have been a stampede. Many protesters could have got injured.”
Speaking to mediapersons in Mumbai, Dilip Kamble, the Minister of State for Social Welfare and Special Assistance, said they would be looking into the demands of the protesters and see that steps are taken to resolve their issues. Pradeem More, General Secretary, State Level Association of the Deaf, said, through interpreter Taslim Shaikh, that the agitation will continue throughout the night and the decision will be taken in the morning.