Curfew imposed in parts of Navi Mumbai
Mumbai, March 18
Bitter infighting between top leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) seemed to be fuelling the continuing violence as the hidden hands of NCP minister Ganesh Naik and party MLA Shashikant Shinde emerged clearly, their supporters targeting the properties of each other.
Trouble in the township, about 60 km from here, which started between residents of Ghansoli village and ‘Mathadi’ workers (porters) following the alleged molestation of a village girl by ‘Mathadis’ on the day of Holi, had now spread to other areas of Navi Mumbai, the police said.
Protesters attempted to create trouble in front of the house of Mr Naik at Bonkawade village this afternoon, after which the police burst teargas shells and cane-charged the violent crowd, that reportedly refused to disperse.
With sporadic incidents of violence continuing in other parts of the town, a curfew was imposed in and around Koparkhairane, the police added.
Sources said shops and other establishments remained closed for the third day today.
While suburban train services were not affected, municipal bus services to Koparkhairane were suspended.
Mr Naik, known as the strongman of Navi Mumbai, enjoyed the support of the ‘Agri’ community, the original settlers, while Mr Shinde was the leader of the new migrants, the ‘Mathadis’.
With Navi Mumbai emerging as a major hub to decongest Mumbai, the state government had acquired farm land for accommodating migrants from Mumbai.
With the population rising in the satellite township, the number of Assembly constituencies here had also increased following delimitation early this year.
Mr Naik’s constituency had been split into two and the NCP was poised to hand over a part of it to Mr Shinde. Observers said the turf war between Mr Naik, who came to the NCP from the Shiv Sena, and Mr Shinde was fuelling the current spurt in violence.
The ‘Mathadis’ attacked the house of Mr Naik yesterday, provoking retaliation from the ‘Agris’.
Both groups today descended on the Mumbai-Pune highway, blocking traffic.
The Rapid Action Force was called in to disperse the mob, but the situation worsened and angry mobs attacked the police station at Nerul, the police said.
Several policemen were injured and the car of a Deputy Commissioner of Police was smashed in the attack.
Senior NCP leaders were now trying to broker peace between Mr Naik and Mr Shinde.