Yogesh Pawar in Thane
A day after senior Shiv Sena leader Anand Dighe died in a hospital, his followers went berserk in Thane.
Groups of Sena activists, blaming medical negligence for their leader's death, pelted stones on public and private vehicles, blocked traffic and looted shops.
Dighe died of a massive heart attack at Thane's Singhania hospital, where he was admitted after he met with an accident on Saturday.
On Sunday night, as the news of his death spread, Sena activists ransacked the hospital, set parts of it afire, assaulted the staff and drove other patients out.
The maternity ward survived their wrath only after Sena chief Bal Thackeray's son Uddhav intervened.
On Monday morning, jeep loads of Sena activists went around armed with swords and lathis warning people in Ulhasnagar, Kalyan, Badlapur, Ambernath, Dombivli and Thane to stay indoors.
Cable service operators were told to switch off their network. Both civic and Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses stayed off the roads.
Since the Sena controls a majority of the autorickshaw unions in Thane, there were no three-wheelers on the roads.
People arriving from outstation were taken by surprise. Some of them were even attacked by Sena activists when they tried to arrange for transportation.
Sobita Chatterjee of Matunga, who was stranded at Kalyan station, wondered if the violence would bring peace to Dighe's soul. "They should not hold people like us to ransom," she said after walking four km to reach her daughter's house.
"First, the three-hour journey from Matunga (normally it takes an hour and twenty minutes) and now this," she complained.
Though police claimed that security had been beefed up all over Thane, people were asking why the cops failed to prevent the violence at the hospital on Sunday night.
"Had the police blocked access to the only road leading to the hospital, all this could have been avoided," a still shaken member of the hospital staff pointed out.
Admitting that even the police were caught unawares by the developments, Police Commissioner S Shangari said: "We are already spread out too thin due to the Ganpati festivities. It took us a while to get organised," he told rediff.com.
"The only other option (on Sunday night) was to open fire, but that could have led to more complications," he added.
Though Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Satish Pradhan and Lok Sabha MP Prakash Paranjape condemned the violence, they defended the action of the Sena activists.
"For us, he (Dighe) was everything. Thousands of supporters are upset with his death. There will be some display of emotion," Paranjape said.
Attempts to contact Singhania group spokesperson Palomi Dhavan drew a blank.
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