A man who allegedly incited migrant labourers to protest here amid lockdown was arrested by the police on Wednesday.
The man, Vinay Dubey, who was earlier detained for threatening to launch an agitation on 18 April, was booked under Sections 117, 153 A, 188, 269, 270 and 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act. He will be produced before a local court later today.
Dubey has been accused of inciting migrants through his social media posts calling for action. He had put out several social media posts around a campaign “Chalo Ghar Ki Ore (let’s go home)” instigating migrants stranded by the coronavirus lockdown, desperate to return to their native villages.
In a video that has been circulated since yesterday, Dubey is heard asking the government to organise a journey home for the migrants, since the lockdown “will be over on April 14”.
“I request that after the lockdown gets over on April 14, the state government arrange trains to UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal. They can be quarantined once they get there… They are desperate here, they will die of hunger, if not from coronavirus…We will wait till 14th or 15th, if government does not do anything, I, Vinay Dubey, will start the journey with those migrants on foot…”
Social distancing went for a toss when over 3,000 stranded, hungry and angry migrant labourers from different parts of India thronged near the Bandra railway station on Tuesday demanding that they should be given transportation to return to their native places immediately.
The Mumbai Police, which attempted to cajole them from jamming there in such large numbers, resorted to a mild lathi charge when sections of the restive hordes threatened to go out of control.
By 6 pm, Mumbai Police spokesperson and Deputy Commissioner of Police Pranaya Ashok informed that “the crowd had dispersed” while local police sources said that the “situation is under control, and the entire area would be sanitised” as a precautionary measure.
The gathering — violating strict prohibitory orders enforced throughout the state — took place barely a couple of km from ‘Matoshri’, the private residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The incident has sparked a political row.
Coming in trickles, the jostling sea of humanity, including women, virtually caught the police unaware and sounded alarm bells among the state health authorities struggling to keep people indoors and avoid crowding in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the reasons for the sudden crowding were not clear, there were some rumours of food packets to be distributed by local groups and of some long-distance trains being started from Bandra on Tuesday night.
— Kartikey (@Love_Kartikey) April 15, 2020
Several of the migrants heatedly demanded that they could not continue to live in Mumbai, away from their homes or families in different parts of India with the lockdown getting extended till May 3 following the announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday morning.
They asked the police to make arrangements for suitable transportation facilities to enable them to go to their respective towns and villages. Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique tried to calm them down, appealed to them to disperse and promised to take up their issue.
Slamming the Modi government at the Centre, Tourism Minister and Sena leader Aditya Thackeray said that “the current situation in Bandra, or even the rioting in Surat, is a result of the Union government not being able to take a call on arranging a way home for the migrant labour. They don’t want food or shelter, they want to go back home”.
Later, he appeared to soften up by saying that the migrant issue persists everywhere, the state houses more than 600,000 migrants, provides them with meals, and will continue to ensure all comforts at the migrant camps set up in Maharashtra.
He also thanked the Centre for understanding the situation while trying to ensure the safety of the home states of migrants.
Nationalist Congress Party’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh breathed fire and blamed Modi for letting down the desperate migrants who were expecting that the PM would make some announcement to facilitate their return home.
“The migrant labourers are in large numbers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other states. Today they were hoping that the PM would make some announcement which would give them an opportunity to return to their native places,” Deshmukh said, adding that nothing of the sort happened, and the PM let them down badly.
Congress’ Mumbai Guardian Minister Aslam Shaikh said that CM Thackeray had raised with PM Modi the issue of sending the migrants back home, but the Centre extended the lockdown without addressing the migrants’ concerns.
Trade Unions Joint Action Committee Maharashtra Convenor Vishwas Utagi said there are over two million migrants stuck in Mumbai since the March 25 lockdown, besides 3,000 fishermen stranded at Gholvad in south Gujarat.
“They have no food, no work, no homes, no transport to go home. How can they survive? The government machinery is not responding to the challenge and this is a human tragedy in other parts of the country also,” Utagi said.
Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said CM Thackeray addressed the migrants directly, calmed them and assured the state’s full support, and “warned those trying to spread rumours and fake news, and the state government would not spare the guilty”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday morning announced the extension of the lockdown till May 3 to contain the spread of Coronavirus.