Violent agitations over the demand for reservations in government jobs and education for the Maratha community continue to rock Maharashtra. On Sunday afternoon, a car carrying BJP MP Heena Gavit (31) was attacked by pro-reservation protesters outside the Dhule Collector’s office.
While Gavit was rescued unharmed by a party worker, her car was badly damaged. “It was shocking and frightening. A mob of around 200 people surrounded my car. Some climbed on top of the car. A few others were trying to turn it upside down. I was scared for my life,” said Gavit, who belongs to the Scheduled Tribe community and represents the Nandurbar parliamentary constituency.
The incident took place when Gavit was emerging out of an official meeting at the Dhule Collector’s office. Maratha pro-reservation protesters, under the banner of the Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM), have been observing a dharna outside the Collector’s office for the past 16 days. “Some of them (protesters) were following me even after I was rescued from the car,” she alleged.
She also complained that the security arrangements made for the meeting were inadequate. “The protests had been on for a while. I’d even called the Dhule Superintendent of Police (SP) earlier in the day inquiring about the security arrangements. But there were only four police constables near my car when it was attacked. They were easily outnumbered,” Gavit claimed.
But SP (Dhule) M Ramkumar denied this. “Adequate police bandobast was provided for the meeting. We had deployed over 200 men. We had to resort to a mild lathicharge to disperse the mob after the MP’s car was attacked. We have detained 16 people. The MP’s complaint is being recorded. We’ll frame charges against the attackers and strict action will be taken,” he said.
Later in the evening, Gavit’s lodged her complaint. She said she plans to raise the issue when Parliament resumes on Monday. “I’ll even raise it with the Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha Speaker. Everyone has a right to protest. But this should not be done at the expense of someone else’s life,” she said.
“An MLA whose car had left five minutes before mine was not attacked. The moment they saw my car leaving they ran after it,” she claimed. Maharashtra’s Tourism Minister Jaikumar Rawal and Minister of State (Co-operation) Dadaji Bhuse were also present at the meeting. Bhuse, when contacted, said “before the meeting when he attempted to meet the protesters, slogans were raised against him as well”.
While the meeting began around 11 am, Gavit, who had to take a flight to Delhi in the evening, left mid-way through it, when the incident took place. MKM’s state coordinator Nanasaheb Kute Patil, who was in Pune for a pro-reservation meeting, said, “MKM coordinators across the state have been asked to observe non-violent protests. We’ll have to see if those responsible for the attack were our volunteers or not.”