Several shops and other establishments in Mumbai and other cities were shut and bus services disrupted during the Maharashtra Bandh, called by the ruling Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coalition of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), on Monday to protest the killing of farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district on October 3. All the big cities of the state, like Pune, Kolhapur, Nasik, Thane, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Nanded, were shut.
Though the MLAs and ministers of the alliance were asked to ensure that the strike remained peaceful, eight BEST buses and one leased bus were vandalised between midnight and this morning.
The state’s middle class, shopkeepers, farmers and labourers joined hands to support the general strike. The supporters of the three parties came were seen appealing to people to make the bandh successful.
Maharashtra Congress leaders staged a sit-in protest in front of governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s house. Condemning the killing of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, state Congress president Nana Patole said, “As Maharashtra is observing the bandh, we expect justice for the families of the deceased farmers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should minister of state for home affairs Ajay Mishra immediately.”
A Mahindra Thar belonging to Mishra’s son Ashish mowed down farmers walking peacefully in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3. Farmers have alleged that Ashish was driving the SUV.
Led by state NCP president Jayant Patil, party leaders protested at Hutatma Chowk—a memorial in the name of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti members who were killed in police firing during a peaceful demonstration in 1956—in the state capital. “The dictatorship of Modi and the BJP is evident after the Lakhimpur incident. All the democratic forces must join hands and defeat the BJP. Maharashtra has taken the lead in this battle and I am sure the country will follow us,” Patil said.
The strike was actively supported by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha and other organisations. Ajit Navale, chairman, All India Kisan Sabha, Maharashtra, lead the protest in Ahmednagar with hundreds of farmers. “Finally, ruling parties in the state are waking up. We have been protesting the three farm laws. The Lakhimpur incident has stirred the nation. The protest against the BJP should be intensified,” he said.
State BJP leaders termed the bandh a political stunt. “Farmers of Marathawada are demanding compensation for the incessant rains that destroyed their crops. Instead of focussing on them, the MVA alliance parties are trying to divert attention on issues outside of Maharashtra,” said state BJP president Chandrakant Patil.