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Nationwide protests over Sethusamudram project

Source: PTI
Last updated on: September 12, 2007 14:24 IST
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Protesting the government's decision to go ahead with the Sethusamudram project, the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated organisations on Wednesday staged road blockades at various places in Mumbai and Delhi.

Workers from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party blocked various roads across Mumbai, police said.

Traffic movement at 23 busy spots in Mumbai, including important junctions on the S V Road in north-west Mumbai, Saki Naka and Turbhe Naka, was blocked by the protestors causing inconvenience to commuters, they added.

"We have started detaining the protestors and are in the process of clearing the spots for smooth traffic movement," a police official said.

The Sethusamudram Ship Canal project aims at creating an artificial canal in the shallow ocean, by dredging parts of Ram Sethu, to enable vessels to save time taken to circumnavigate the Sri Lankan island while going from west to east.

According to the epic Ramayana, Ram Sethu is a bridge constructed by Lord Ram connecting the Indian peninsula with mainland Sri Lanka.

Commuters in Delhi had a harrowing time reaching their destinations due to road blockades at various places by VHP activists as part of the nationwide protest. VHP activists began their blockade at around 8 am.

Vehicular movement across Delhi was affected with traffic snarls witnessed at Nizamuddin bridge, ITO, Yamuna bridge, Akshardham temple, Vikas Marg, Connaught Place, Dwarka flyover, Lajpat Nagar, South-Extension and along National Highway 8.

Traffic was also affected in Khajoori and Bhajanpura.

Police personnel in large numbers were deployed on streets to regulate the traffic. A number of activists, including some local leaders of VHP and BJP, were also detained.

"I had a harrowing time in reaching my office. I was almost an hour late," said Deepa Sharma, a commuter.

VHP claimed that the Sethusamudram project will destroy the mythical Ram Sethu linking India and Sri Lanka.

Normal life remained paralysed in Madhya Pradesh in the forenoon as the VHP workers disrupted road and rail traffic.

VHP workers put up pickets at vantage points to block the traffic causing inconvenience to commuters, particularly students and office-goers.

In Bhopal, office-goers had a harrowing time as the main arteries were blocked in at least 15 places. Police personnel deployed to maintain law and order did not come forward to help the people in distress though the VHP leaders had announced that essential services would be left untouched.

City buses were off the road during the agitation in Bhopal and Indore.

Kolar township, having about 3 lakh population, remained cut off from Bhopal for over four hours due to the agitation.

At Hoshangabad, national highway No 59 was blocked by VHP workers, who also stopped the 2853 Down Durg-Bhopal Amarkantak Express at the outer of Hoshangabad station briefly.

Barring stray incidents of violence, the traffic blockade agitation from 0800 to 1100 hours was "by and large peaceful", Additional Director General of Police Surendra Singh said.

At Indore, 41 VHP workers were arrested for attempting to detain trains.

The Indore-Nagda passenger train was also detained for five minutes. A stone-throwing incident was reported in Chandannagar area when agitators were challenged by a rival group.

Rail and road traffic across Jharkhand was thrown out of gear for about three hours and prohibitory orders were imposed at Giridih town during the VHP-sponsored nationwide blockade.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC were imposed in Giridih town after clashes broke out at Bada Chowk when VHP supporters tried to enforce the blockade and clashed with the people, Superintendent of Police Arun Singh said.

As stones were thrown by the clashing sides, the police fired in the air and burst teargas shells to scare them away, he said adding, the situation was under control.

The blockade brought to a standstill traffic at Giridih, besides Palamau and Gumla, the police said.

BJP and VHP activists squatted on main thoroughfares in Ranchi in the morning, but the police swiftly cleared the blockades and detained several supporters, Superintendent of Police (Ranchi city) Richard Lakra told PTI.

About 200 VHP supporters put up blockades on railway tracks between Tatanagar and Gua in Jamshedpur, delaying Tata-Gua passenger train, railway sources said.

The Howrah-Barbil Satabdi Express was stranded at Tatanagar railway station due to a blockade on the railway tracks at Sini, 60 km away, the sources said adding, the blockade was removed by the police.

Punjab and Haryana also witnessed protest by the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated parties.

VHP activists began theirblockade at around 10 am affecting vehicular movement at many places in Chandigarh, including at Sector 26, Sector 22, Sector 21, Sector 29, Sector 34, Bus stand Sector 17 chowk and Attawa Chowk, police said.

Vijay Singh Bhardwaj, spokesman of VHP Punjab unit, said nearly 250 activists had been rounded up by the police from near Sector 26, but they were released later.

Reports of protest were also received from various places in Haryana including Ambala, Sonepat and Hisar.

In Ambala, police resorted to lathicharge when the protestors tried to block the Ambala-Hisar highway, in which BJP district president Sanjay Sharma sustained injuries.

He was admitted to civil hospital.

Ambala's City Magistrate Sushil Kumar, too, found himself at the receiving end of the cops, who mistaking him as an activist of VHP, thrashed him.

In Punjab, workers of BJP and the VHP blocked both rail and road traffic in Jalandhar.

There were also reports of protests held at places including Bathinda, Amritsar, Batala, Ropar and Gurdaspur.

Meanwhile, life in Uttar Pradesh's textile town, Kanpur, was also disrupted by the road blocked as large number of vehicles remained stranded for hours at the busy GT road, Mal road, Tat mill road, Shuklagunj and Ganga bridge causing inconvinence to the passengers.

After two hours of efforts police managed to clear the roads, police said.

Rail and road traffic disrupted in Bihar during VHP protest

Rail and road traffic in Bihar were also disrupted.

Hundreds of VHP and BJP leaders and activists have been taken in custody by police across Bihar for blocking rail and road traffic.

Nearly 200 VHP activists led by BJP legislator Nitin Navin in Patna were taken in custody by police while leading a mob that disrupted train services at Patna junction. "We have taken them in custody for disrupting the rail traffic," a RPF official said.

The VHP activists also disrupted road traffic at different places in Patna by staging protests. Several long route trains  have been halted at Danapur and Rajendra Nagar terminals near Patna.

Due to road blockade by the VHP activists, a woman was forced to deliver a child on the road at Danapur.

Additional Reportage: Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna & UNI

Photograph: Arun Patil

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