Navi Mumbai Holi riots

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The Navi Mumbai Holi riots was a series of violent incidents that took place around Navi Mumbai for about a week beginning the day after Holi (March 14) of 2006. The riots began in the Agri village of Ghansoli, and soon spread to other areas, including Vashi and Koparkhairane. The feuding parties were Ghansoli Agri & Koli locals and mathadi settlers, with pre-existing "native vs. immigrant" political bad blood between the two communities serving as a tinderbox. The police were also criticized for excessive use of force, and thereby allegedly aggravating the situation. Police inexperience and lack of riot/crowd control vehicles and devices, as well as delayed police and special forces deployment also allowed to violence to spread. The rioting resulted in a curfew in many areas, destruction of property including of vehicles, several injuries to persons and three deaths.

Causes[edit]

The root cause of the discontent in the area is the influx of Maharashtrians predominantly from Western Maharashtra thus challenging the demographic dominance of the native Konkanis who are predominantly of the Agri and Koli tribes (Agris claim to be Ahirs descended from Krishna) and represented by the nativist Agri Sena, a competitor for political supremacy in the Mid-North Konkan with the Maharashtrians' Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Ganesh Naik and the former Marxist and present Maharashtrawadi (Maharashtrianist) Peasant & Workers' Party. Konkani nativist discontent has been simmering for a long time over this influx, political domination and restrictions to accesses and resources. Government policy has resulted in segregated colonies of Mathadis and Agris with more facilities for the former, ostensibly as part of the urbanization and industrialization policies, adding to Agri discontent.

Another nativist organization involved is the Kunabi Sena representing the Konkani Kunbi tribe which organization however has an alliance with the Shiv Sena and the NCP.

A similar situation exists in the Greater Noida region of U.P. in the National Capital Region bordering Delhi with a similar series of riots between natives and immigrants over construction of new settlements for immigrants and prohibition of access to natives through them....

In both areas (New Bombay & Noida), Governmental ignorance and paternalistic attitude resulted in the creation of workers' colonies for immigrants when the natives refused to surrender their longheld and comfortable rustic lifestyles to work in an industrial milieu, resulting in exclusive, gated communities for the privileged immigrants at the cost of barring natives' right to access routes and to resources, and resulting in a mutual contempt and demonization between the natives and the immigrants, the government, business investors and immigrant workers portraying the natives as lazy and thieving and demanding privileges without earning them, and the natives portraying the immigrants as hustlers being unduly favored and privileged by the government over the natives in the natives' own historic homelands, denying them their ancient rights and privileges.

Timeline[edit]

The riots took place over about four days, and spread to various nodes of the city until they were quelled by police action and political appeasement.

Wednesday, March 15[edit]

There are two versions of how the riots began. One is that some Ghansoli agri forcibly applied Holi colours on a mathadi youth (in some sub-versions, a girl), resulting in a scuffle in the afternoon. Another version is that some agri harassed a mathadi girl. The evening saw invasions by both sides on each other's colonies, as well as a road blockade by the mathadi.

Thursday, March 16[edit]

Mobs of several hundreds each clash using iron rods, bottles, knives and stones. Mathadi leader Narendra Patil attempts to mediate, but his peace conference is attacked by a sword-wielding mob, resulting in injury to him and fatal injury to his bodyguard Chandu Bharugade. Police fire tear gas shells and run a lathi charge, then start firing at around 11:30 am, resulting in the deaths of two persons. The mobs retaliate violently and curfew is imposed in Ghansoli, seeing the deployment of the State Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force. 75 are injured by the end of the day, according to the hospitals, while the police claim the toll is only 17. The injured included a Deputy Commissioner Amar Jadhav and Inspector Shamsher Singh Pathan (who faced calls for resignation by the public), as well as numerous other police personnel. The mob also gutted several vehicles. The Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh declares that the situation was "under control".

Friday, March 17[edit]

Violence spreads to other nodes, beginning with Nerul in the evening, then Koparkhairane, Baundkare, Turbhe and Vashi. Police heavy-handedness results in protests and calls to accountability by residents. Police stations in Nerul and Koparkhairane are invaded by angry mob, and a mob attempts to set fire to a police chowky. Police extend curfew to Koparkhairane, Ghansoli and Vashi. A general bandh is called in the city - public transport grinds to a halt and shops drop their shutters. Eight were arrested for participating in the violence.

Saturday, March 18[edit]

Female protestors pelt stones at the residence of Excise Minister Ganesh Naik, and police are noticeably milder in dispersing them. Sporadic violence continued in Koparkhairane, and the curfew remained in place. A mob also attacks media vehicles. At least 167 persons were arrested, and 125 were taken into preventive custody.

Monday, March 20[edit]

The curfew was almost completely lifted due to lack of new reports of violence.

Politics[edit]

Inspector Pathan was transferred on March 18 (officially based on his own pre-riot request for transfer) by Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil under pressure from the public, to be replaced by the agri Senior Inspector B R Patil. A CID probe was launched to investigate the death of Bharugade. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray visited Ghansoli village on March 23 to meet the injured, the families of two of the deceased, and some of the mathadi living near the centre of the violence.

Sources[edit]