BENGALURU: The protest by garment factory workers, which had turned violent and shut down the IT hub on Monday, turned intense and spread to other parts of the city as over 25,000 workers came on to the streets on Tuesday, agitating against the Central government’s amendments to the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) norms.
More than 60 policemen and 37 people were injured, while over 100 vehicles were damaged across the city by violent mobs. The police arrested 116 rioters.
Two people, including a 19-year-old girl student, sustained what is suspected to be bullet injuries in the violence.
Both are undergoing treatment at Sparsh Hospital on Hosur Road. The condition of one of them, 47-year-old Manjunathappa, is critical as a sharp object entered and exited his chest leaving his lungs and ribs damaged.
The BA student, Preethi, sustained injuries, as a pellet hit her thigh. She is out of danger. Both were injured when an angry mob stormed into the Hebbagodi police station and assaulted several policemen, including ACP Obalesh and a police inspector.
As the police fired several rounds in the air and lobbed over 100 teargas shells to take control of the situation, Preethi and Manjunathappa, who were passing by, were injured. Doctors confirmed that Preethi was hit by a pellet, but could not pinpoint the reason behind Manjunathappa’s life-threatening injury.
Rioters vandalised government and private properties and set vehicles on fire on Mysuru Road, Hosur Road, Tumakuru Road, Bannerghatta Road and other parts of the city, leading to traffic jams that stretched up to 10 km from morning till evening.
Traffic at Electronic City, Yeshwanthpur, Peenya, Naganathapura, Magadi Road, Madiwala, Rajagopalanagar, West of Chord Road, Bellandur Gate, Sarjapur Road, Koramangala, BTM Layout Sector 1 and surrounding areas was severely affected.
The motorists, who were stuck in traffic jams, watched in horror as violence unfolded right in front of their eyes. Around 12.30 pm, 200-250 protesters barged into the premises of Biocon on Hosur Road, set the security office on fire and damaged ambulances and vehicles of the employees. More than 3,000 employees were evacuated and escorted to safety. Police forces arrived at the spot one-and-a-half hours later.
The police, who were again caught unawares, said no leader or organisation claimed responsibility for the protest. “If we could talk to the leaders of these protests, we could have controlled the situation better,” said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
Stressful episode for commuters
With garment workers resorting to a flash strike for the second day on Tuesday, the commuters in the city bore the brunt again. Many said it was like a pressure cooker situation for them as they were locked inside their cars in long traffic jams under the sweltering heat as protesters went on the rampage.
The IT hub was the worst affected again as hundreds of IT professionals could not reach their offices on time because of traffic jams across the city.
Mr Sahil Yadav, who had flown into the city from Mumbai only to attend a three-day business meeting in Electronic City Phase 2, cancelled his appointment because of the protest.
“I was stuck in a traffic jam for over three hours on Hosur Road. The protesters were throwing stones at the police right in front of my eyes. I got down from the car, but the driver advised me to remain seated as the mob was turning violent,” he said.
Amitesh Raj was in the middle of action as he was caught in a traffic jam at Bellandur Gate. “I was heading for a meeting around 11.30 am and was caught in the traffic pileup. I stepped out and saw the mob charging towards our vehicles. My driver screamed at me to run back to the car, but by the time I reached the vehicle the crowd was all around me. Fortunately, I managed to get inside the car,” he said.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at major traffic junctions, like Bellandur Gate and Sarjapur Road, and resorted to vandalism around 11 am. Many office-goers had to take alternative routes to reach back their homes as the roads were completely blocked.
“It was a nightmare sitting locked inside the car, with the blazing sun overhead and the frenzied mob setting BMTC bus on fire right in front of me. While the city was witnessing the riots, it was a 'pressure cooker' situation for many motorists like me," said Sameer Jain, a resident of HSR Layout Sector 2.
While many IT professionals chose to work from home, others who stepped out were stuck in traffic jams for over four hours at Kanteerva Stadium, West of Chord Road, Iskcon Temple, Tumkauru Road, Madiwala, Silk Board Junction and BTM Layout.