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Mixed response to VHP bandh

Last updated on: November 22, 2004 19:30 IST

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's call for a countrywide bandh on Monday to protest the arrest of Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi evoked a mixed response, with sporadic arson and stone-pelting incidents marring it in a few places.

In New Delhi, the bandh evoked only a lukewarm response. Shops and business establishments were open and the traffic was normal.

In Mumbai, too, the bandh had little impact, even though VHP workers tried to disrupt road and rail traffic.

Incidents of VHP activists pelting stones at Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking buses were reported from 30 places. Four drivers, three conductors and a passenger suffered minor injuries. Bus services on some routes were suspended.

BEST Public Relations Officer A S Tamboli said: "Bandh has had no impact on our services. We are running all our buses."

Western Railway's Senior PRO Bhagwat Dahisarkar said: "Train services are normal. At 0730 IST, VHP activists made unsuccessful attempts to create disturbance between Vasai and Nalasopara stations. At 1030 IST, they tried to halt train services at Charni road station, but the services were restored with the help of the police."

Central Railway PRO Y K Singh said: "In the morning, VHP activists tried to create disturbance at Matunga, because of which trains are running 10 minutes late."

VHP Maharashtra general secretary Vynkatesh Abdeo, however, claimed the bandh was a success.

"Our bandh is successful in Maharashtra. In Mumbai, we were successful in closing down business establishments. Police have arrested 300 activists. We expected Shiv Sena's support, but they didn't issue a statement. I think it is because of the court's fine on them."

Even the BJP in the state has stayed away from the bandh.

The Bombay high court had fined the Shiv Sena-BJP Rs 20 lakh each for a bandh they called on July 30 last year.

In Orissa, the bandh brought to a standstill train serivces, as supporters squatted on the tracks at several places. The national highway between Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar and several other roads were blocked. Trade and commerce was also badly hit in the state.

In Chhattisgarh, the bandh was total in the three divisions of the state -- Raipur, Bilaspur and Bastar -- as all business establishments, including petrol pumps and cinema halls, remained shut and public transport vehicles remained off the roads, official sources told PTI in Raipur.

Though some transport unions and VHP sources claimed that about 20 buses were damaged by protestors, police sources told PTI there were no complaints of violence from any part of the state so far.

Around 300 bandh supporters -- 150 in Kolkata, around 100 in Bihar and 50 in Orissa -- were arrested when they tried to force closure of shops. Tension prevailed in Dhar in Madhya Pradesh when bandh supporters tried to get shops closed.

In Gujarat, protestors tried to torch two buses in Vadodara and a state transport bus in Surat, but no one was injured in the incidents.

Stray incidents of stone-pelting on buses were reported from Kanyakumari, Indore, Kota and Jharkhand's East and West Singhbhum districts.

In Rajasthan, normal life was partially affected. There were reports of glass panes of a few mini buses being smashed by VHP activists in Nayapura and Gumanpura area of Kota, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) R B Sharma said in Jaipur.

Over fifty per cent of shops and business establishments remained closed. Essential services, however, were not affected.

An official report from Ajmer division said Ajmer, Pushkar and Kishangarh cities were exempted from the bandh by the VHP in view of the Pushkar fair.

(With inputs from PTI)


Onkar Singh in New Delhi & Vijay Singh in Mumbai