I started my run at the regular time of 8.30am and reached a place called Dadar TT around 9.30am, the day felt like any other Sunday, there was no rain, but the weather was pleasant, though a little humid. From there I ran to Shivaji Park (part of my regular route), which is a kilometer away from Dadar TT. And this is when I realized that things were not normal, as there was a huge traffic jam and nothing was moving. As I reached the area outside Shiv Sena Bhavan, I saw some Shiv Sena worker doing a rasta roko (road blockade) and I thought this was some symbolic protest by the workers for some communal tension in Bhivandi (in a town close to Bombay) a few days back. And I immediately reaslied that this was the time to go clicking with my camphone, I tried to capture the rasta roko from all possible angles. Suddenly I found someone tapping me on my shoulder, asking me to move from the middle of the road towards the footpath. When I turned I realised that it was a CNN IBN correspondent (I think he was Anup Gopalakrishnan), warning me that the situation would turn violent as there was a possibility of some stone throwing by the workers (and I quickly controlled my excitment of being a citizen journalist). I quickly moved from that place, and hence was unable to take pictures on the basic mode (which give pictures of 30-40kb at 640 x480 resolution), which would have allowed me to directly email the pictures to my id and post it directly on the blog. I took most of them on high resolution mode of the phone (1280 x 960 resolution with 300-450kb size) and will have to wait till tomorrow morning.
As I started to move towards my regular Sunday coffee shop toward Shivaji Park (its a park which has a perimeter of about 1.25kms) and it is here that I found out the actual reason for the protest, it was because the statue of Meenatai Thakary (wife of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thakeray) was desecrated by some anti-social elements, to flair communal tensions. Even here the Shiv Sena workers had stopped traffic. They where quite calm and requested the police to allow them to protest and assured them that this would be peaceful. Everything seemed under control and I proceeded to my coffee shop.After about an hour and twenty minutes when I returned from the café, I realised that things were not back to normal, as I saw a huge cloud of smoke from a distance. As I went closer, I realised that the workers had burnt down a tourist bus as a mark of protest. But things still seemed very much under control, as the riot police was in place in full strength.
Later I realised that the police had opened fire some time back and luckily I had missed the tear gas shelling done by the police after the workers burnt down the bus. Ref. picture which I will be posting tomorrow.I decided to quickly get out of the area and moved towards Dadar TT and that is when I realised that all the shops had pulled down their shutters, for fear of being targeted by the Shiv Sena workers. I managed to reached home safely and found out from television reports that Shiv Sena had asked all shops to down shutter in Dadar area and some other areas and some areas in new Bombay. Both these areas are strongholds of Shiv Sena and they have successfully enforced the bandh (to stop all commercial activity and force shops to down shutters).
I completed the 11km run in about one hour ten minutes and was good for more, only if this incident had not taken place.This was my first brush with protest and violence and now when I look back at the incident, it was a pretty scary situation & could have gone out of hand.
Things are slowly moving back to normal.... Will be posting my pictures of the incident on the blog tomorrow morning….