Dalit anger over Pune clashes singes parts of Mumbai, Maharashtra
MUMBAI/PUNE: A day after the bicentenary of a British battle with the Peshwas marked by Dalits as a momentous episode in their history—was marred by clashes between the commemorating group and right-wingers opposed to the event, violent protests by Dalits erupted across Maharashtra on Tuesday. While arterial roads and railway tracks in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs were blocked for over six hours, orders prohibiting unlawful assembly had to be issued in parts of Pune and Aurangabad to prevent crowds from forcing commercial establishments to shut. Ten lakh Dalits had turned up at Koregaon Bhima, 30km from Pune, on Monday to mark 200 years of the January 1, 1818 clash in which the Mahar regiment, which signed up on the Raj’s side against the Peshwas, had put up a valiant fight. While top Dalit leaders from Maharashtra were present, so were Gujarat’s new Dalit face Jignesh Mewani, AIMPLB member Maulana Azhari and activist Umar Khalid. Police said 25 vehicles were torched by members of right-wing groups opposed to the gathering. They also damaged 50 vehicles by hurling stones. A 28-year old returning from office died after being hit by stones. While CM Devendra Fadnavis ordered a judicial inquiry into the Koregaon Bhima violence, a CID probe into the death of the Pune youth and compensation of Rs 10 lakh for his family, his announcements failed to pacify Dalit leaders, with Prakash Ambedkar calling for a Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday.
The Shiv Sena, known for enforcing bandhs in Mumbai, had till late Tuesday evening not issued any counter call to thwart the Bahujan Republic Party’s (BRP) call. Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit out at the Centre, tweeting that BJP’s “fascist vision” was to blame for increasing incidents of violence against Dalits. Rahul hailed Tuesday’s protests as “potent symbols” of Dalit resistance against the Modi government’s “anti-Dalit” policy. NCP chief Sharad Pawar blamed the BJP-led state government for inept handling of the situation in Koregaon Bhima. Though sections of the media reported that the Koregaon clash was between Marathas and Dalits, Ambedkar said that was not the case and blamed Hindutva groups with an alleged Brahminical bias. He said the judicial inquiry ordered by Fadnavis was not acceptable and demanded it should be conducted by a non-Dalit judge. He blamed Sambhaji Bhide of Shivraj Pratishthan and Milind Ekbote of Samasta Hindu Ekta Sabha for inciting Monday’s violence. Though Ekbote refuted all charges, Pune police booked him and Bhide for attempt to murder, among other charges of the IPC, and under the Arms Act and Atrocities Act. Pune city police have transferred the case to Pune rural police at Shikrapur for further action. A total of 154 buses were damaged across the state, including 20 BEST buses in Mumbai alone. The BEST buses were damaged in incidents across the suburbs, including Mulund, Chembur, Deonar and Kurla.
400 CCTV cams sought at key CR stations after security audit
MUMBAI: More than 400 cameras have been proposed on key Central Railway (CR) stations following a security audit conducted last year which showed that more electronic surveillance was needed. The audit, jointly conducted by the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF), also mentioned how Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) was open on all sides, which invited unauthorised access. The two security forces have now decided to jointly man entries and exits to stations. Eleven stations on the CR were surveyed; these were CSMT, Dadar, Kurla, Thane, LTT, Kalyan, Dombivli, Panvel, Karjat, Vashi and Wadala. Six of these are covered under the Integrated Security System (ISS) mooted after the 26/11 attacks. It was found that some locations had either no CCTV coverage or it was very poor. “Two hundred-and-six cameras have been proposed for the six stations covered under ISS. A hundred-and-ninety-six cameras have been proposed at the remaining five stations. At present, there are rented cameras at these five stations. We are also expected to get cameras under the Nirbhaya Fund,” said a senior RPF official. Activists say merely more cameras will not help if these are not of a high resolution. On December 15, a man entered the ladies compartment of a Harbour local at CSMT just as it started, snatched a passenger’s cellphone and jumped out. The GRP registered a case of theft and said that CCTV grabs of the accused were not very clear.
Unauthorised entries and exits are a pressing problem. The RPF shut down one unauthorised entry near a dargah at CSMT. But LTT is worry as the platforms can be accessed freely from anywhere. The railways had announced plans to develop LTT and Thane into world-class stations. This would consist of renovation and redevelopment of station buildings, platform surfaces and the surrounding areas. “All other plans to make infrastructural changes to these stations are currently on hold,” said a railway official. Last January, a 12-year-old boy, Randhir Sahni, was killed and dumped in a suitcase at LTT. The police arrested six people for luring him with other children from Bihar for a workshop job. In January 2014, Esther Anuhya, a TCS employee, arrived at LTT from Andhra Pradesh when a driver, Chandrabhan Sanap, offered her a lift to her Andheri hostel. He raped and killed her in the bushes off the Eastern Express Highway at Bhandup, setting the body on fire. He was awarded death by a special women’s court in 2015. “Besides joint manning of entry-exit gates with the GRP, we have roped in 259 personnel from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation for it. Most of these are women. They have been trained in behaviour with commuters and crowd management,” an RPF official said.
Road deaths dip in Tamil Nadu, up 10% in city
Chennai: While the number of deaths due to road accidents across Tamil Nadu have come down to 15,938 in 2017 from 17,130 last year, casualties in Chennai – from 1,175 in 2016 to 1,301 in 2017 – have gone up by more than 10%, reports A Selvaraj. While effective deployment of highway patrolling teams, stationing of ambulances at vantage points, coordinating with nearby hospitals, better illumination of highways and rectifying road engineering faults with the help of other agencies have brought down the death rate in the state, over-speeding, riding two-wheelers without helmets and driving cars without seatbelts are the major reasons for the rising fatalities in the city, police sources said. Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction of being a state with very high road accident fatalities. And while the numbers remain high, they have dropped by around 7% since 2016. The number of deaths due to road accidents has come down from 17,130 in 2016 to 15,938 in 2017, according to State Traffic Planning Cell (STPC) data. “We have not achieved this within a day. The entire Tamil Nadu police department worked hard to bring down the deaths on roads due to accidents,” said director general of police T K Rajendran who has taken up the initiative to make roads in TN safer. Effective deployment of highway patrolling teams, stationing of ambulances at vantage points, coordination with nearby hospitals, better illumination of highways and rectifying road engineering faults with the help of the agencies concerned are being cited by the police department as reasons for a reduction in the number of casualties.
To ensure plans fall in place, senior police officers have been conducting regular reviews at the district level and sending detailed reports to the headquarters. Director of STPC Karan Singha and other officers worked on detailed plans to make roads safer. “It is a meticulous process. We prepared a chart for the entire state and marked the accident zones on a computerised map with exact coordinates. We merged 10-year data and tried to form one road map for the state,” said a senior police officer. The data helped police chalk out a pattern on particular stretches. “We found that ill-lit stretches were more accident-prone. Likewise, engineering fault is also a reason for accidents on certain stretches,” said the officer. Officers in respective districts were assigned to resolve the issues in coordination with the highways department, Tamil Nadu Road Development Corporation and National Highways Authority of India. “We found that some accident victims lost their lives as they didn’t get proper medical attention during the ‘golden hour’,” said an officer. Police have tied up with the ‘108’ ambulance services and private ambulances, assigning a team of paramedics to the emergency vehicles to attend to victims. “The lower numbers don’t mean that fatal accidents have come down, but police saved the lives of 1,192 people. We will try to bring down the deaths further in 2018,” said Rajendran.
Gunmen kill 17 at church service in Nigeria’s Rivers State
LAGOS, Nigeria: A Nigerian official says gunmen shot dead at least 17 worshippers who had attended a church service to usher in the new year. The chairman of a local community group, Osi Olisa, said Tuesday that the gunmen also shot people on the road before escaping. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack in Rivers State, though suspicion has fallen on an armed group believed to be behind kidnappings and killings in the area. In November, local defence groups and security officials shot dead the group’s leader. Gun violence is common in parts of Nigeria‘s oil-producing Niger Delta region, where various militant groups take up arms against multinational companies to demand a share of the oil proceeds.