NAGPUR, Maharashtra: Thousands of migrant laborers flooded the Bandra west railway station in Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai on Tuesday over some rumors of resumption of railway services.
The police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the massive crowd which gathered at this railway station on a day when Prime Minister Modi announced an extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3 in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
Some images and videos of the incident on social media show massive crowd at the Bandra railway station painting a grim picture for a city which has emerged as a hotspot of coronavirus in India.
The main opposition party in the state, the BJP, was quick to blame the Uddhav Thackeray government for the incident.
“The incident in Bandra today is very serious. We have been telling this government since day one that they will have to make arrangements for migrant laborers. But unfortunately, the government failed to do so which is why we witnessed such a dangerous situation when labors come out and say that give us food or send us back. Such an incident in a place like Bandra clearly suggests that the government is failing somewhere. I am amazed by the way this government’s ministers blame the central government. To indulge in politics at such a time is shameful,” senior BJP leader and the leader of opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis said in a video statement.
However, Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik tweeted a story reported by Marathi news channel ABP Majha and said that it can’t be ruled out that the channels’ report might have triggered the massive crowd at Bandra railway station
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray also balmed the rumors for the situation.
“Whatever happened in Bandra today happened because those people thought the railway services will be resumed after April 14 and that they will be able to go back to their home states. It’s not that we are not providing them anything. We have provided them with proper facilities. But some people might have spread this rumor that the inter-state railway services are resuming form today,” Thackeray said in a live-streamed address to the people of the state.
“But please don’t play politics with this and try to give it a color. I am warning again, anyone trying to play with the emotions of people and create law and order issues, won’t escape the law’s wrath. There are people spreading fire but I won’t allow them to do it. All political parties are united in this effort including PM, home minister and Raj (Thackeray),” the CM warned.
ABP Majha’s editor Rajiv Khandekar did not respond to the calls from HuffPost India.
The Marathi channel’s reporter Rahul Kulkarni, who reported the story, told HuffPost India that he had not seen the minister’s tweet and that he stands by his story.
“I don’t know what the minister tweeted but I have a letter from the south-central railway which was issued yesterday regarding the stranded passengers and laborers. We have a copy of that letter and we are again going to carry that copy in our news bulletin tonight. This particular letter has been circulated in each and every railway department,” Kulkarni said.
When asked if he was refuting the minister’s allegation, he said, “That is not the point. I did not see his tweet and what he tweeted but we stand by our story. I can not comment on it as I have not seen his tweet.”
BJP leader Ashish Shelar also termed the incident as a failure of government, intelligence network and the state police.
“If thousands of people suddenly gather on the street from different parts of the city, is it not the failure of state government, intelligence apparatus, and police? The guardian minister Aaditya Thackeray should have reached the spot immediately. Five days ago, some groups of construction laborers and toll workers had staged a protest in this area,” Shelar alleged in a series of tweets.
CM Thackeray’s son and Maharashtra tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray, however, held the central government responsible for today’s incident.
’The current citation at Bandra station, now dispersed or even the rioting in Surat is a result of the union government not being able to take a call on arranging a way back home for migrant labor. They don’t want food or shelter, they want to go back home,” Aaditya Thackewary tweeted.