Mumbai:Two trains were set on fire during violent protests in several places in Maharashtra on Thursday against the vandalism of Dalit leader B R Ambedkar's statue in Kanpur.
Authorities have enforced a curfew in Osmanabad town till 0500 hours IST Friday where two persons died last night during police firing on a mob protesting the alleged desecration of the statue. The statue has been replaced after the vandalism on Tuesday.
Curfew was also imposed in Nanded town of Marathwada region, Pimpri in Pune and Nandurbar town of north Maharashtra.
Violent protesters on Thursday stopped the Deccan Queen, which runs between Pune and Mumbai, and torched five bogies of the train. A local train was set ablaze in Mumbai. No one was injured in the incidents.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the situation would improve by Friday and requested Dalit leaders to maintain calm. Deshmukh admitted that Dalits in the state have been angry since the murder of a four-member family in Khairlanji village in Solapur district.
Mumbai Police Commissioner A N Roy said he has requested the state government to declare December 6, Ambedkar’s birthday, a holiday. The Maharashtra government has sent to the Centre a report on the situation in the state.
Maharashtra’s Director General of Police P S Pasricha said 1,500 people have been put under preventive arrest and three persons detained in connection with the lynching of a youth in Nashik. "There's heavy deployment of forces in affected areas. We're continuously reviewing the situation," said Parischa
In Mumbai, incidents of stone pelting and protestors setting up road blocks were reported in suburbs like Kanjur Marg, Mulund, Bhandup, Navghar, Chembur, Kurar and Worli.
Police are searching for gangster Chhota Rajan's brother Deepak Nikhalje is wanted for violence in Chembur.
Police resorted to lathicharge and fired in the air at Kherwadi junction on the Western Express highway where an angry mob had blocked traffic in Vakola. The protestors also pelted stone at passing vehicles.
Small groups of 15-20 people protested against the Kanpur incident in Dalit-dominated pockets in the north and north-east parts of Mumbai, police said.
Protestors pelted stones and damaged several vehicles, police said. At least 10 vehicles, including some BEST buses, were damaged when irate mobs attacked them on Wednesday.
Some Dalit organisations in the city have also called for a bandh in protest against the Kanpur incident.
Deputy chief minister R R Patil has asked police to take necessary measures to ensure that the law and order situation in the state remains under control, a home department official said.
All trains from Pune, including the Deccan Express towards Mumbai, are being held at Pune station.
In Pune, curfew has been clamped in 14 localities of the Pimpri-Nigdi area due to large-scale violence on Wednesday, subsequent to the alleged desecration of the Ambedkar statue.
The situation in the area continued to be tense despite police bursting as many as 50 to 70 teargas shells on Wednesday night.
Over 50 private vehicles were stoned and set ablaze and shops and business establishment were also targeted. The mob also tried to set ablaze police and fire brigade vehicles.
Two policemen were injured in the stone throwing at Pimpri while two drivers were hurt in the violence at Swargate area of the city. The police have rounded up some 30 persons in Pimpri area for rioting, sources said
Incidents of violence were also reported from the neighboring Thane district, police said. However, no casualties had been reported. In Aurangabad, police fired one round in the air last night to disperse a crowd of 1,000 Dalit protestors demonstrating at Mukundwadi area of the city.
According to police, the protestors gathered on Jalna Road in Mukundwadi at around 9 pm and subsequently some of them began pelting stones at vehicles passing by.
A police team, which reached the spot by around 10 pm, failed to pacify the protesters, who then turned their ire against the police contingent.
In the ensuing melee, six persons, including sub-inspector and a constable, were injured, prompting the police to fire in the air. The injured were admitted to a city hospital.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)<table width="248" border="0" cellspacing="2" cellpadding="2"> <tr> <td><img src="/pix/sitepix/11_2006/maha_dalit_violence.jpg" width="248" height="178" /></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="Btext11"><strong> TROUBLE SPOTS:</strong> A map of town and cities in the state where protests were held.</td> </tr> </table>