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NEW DELHI/GURGAON/NOIDA: In the name of protecting a queen’s honour, an anti-Padmaavat mob attacked school buses taking children home in Gurgaon on Wednesday afternoon. The violence left at least one school bus badly damaged and scores of kids, who cowered on the floor to shield themselves from bricks flying at the windows and glass shards from shattered bus panes, deeply shocked.
At least seven schools in Gurgaon and Noida announced a holiday on Thursday in view of the violence. The attack was the most serious among acts of sporadic violence in parts of Delhi-NCR as Padmaavat hit screens on Wednesday. In the capital, there were three-four minor protests which were quickly contained. No shows were disrupted in any part of the region and saw fairly good attendance.
The violence in Gurgaon took on place on the Gurgaon-Alwar highway at Bhondsi. Eyewitnesses said the mob was armed with petrol bombs and also tried to set fire to the school bus, which was thwarted by the police. There were 24 kids and three teachers of GD Goenka World School (Sohna Road) inside the bus. Half an hour earlier, around 3pm, it had stopped a Haryana Roadways bus on the opposite lane and set it on fire, leaving some passengers with minor injuries.
The mob was made up mostly of young boys barely 20 years old or a bit older. TOI saw many of them in school uniform or PT (physical training) dresses as they ran amok on a stretch between the local police station and the Indian Reserve Battallion (IRB) campus. There were only 40 of them but they managed to hold up the entire highway for three hours by letting loose a sudden burst of violence that caught the police by surprise despite a state of high alert being declared 24 hours ago. Police said 24 alleged protesters were detained.
“There were people who were protesting on the road and the cops were trying to disperse them. Suddenly, the mob came from nowhere and started throwing stones at us,” said Pravesh Kumar, who was at the wheel of the GD Goenka school bus (HR55 J3112) and managed to keep driving so that the bus did not become a sitting duck to the mob attack.
School authorities confirmed that no student received any injuries. “One of our buses had left the school and was moving towards Gurgaon. Suddenly at Ghamroj, stone pelters threw stones on one of the school bus. While it damaged the windows, all kids and teachers had ducked for cover on the floor. No one was hurt. We immediately called all our buses back. We have decided to observe a holiday tomorrow, seeing the unrest,” said Neeta Bali, principal GD Goenka World School, Sohna Road.
In the capital, a group of Karni Sena supporters smashed the windscreen of a few cars parked on the roadside near a cinema hall in Maurya Enclave in northwest Delhi, while another group created a ruckus near a mall in Prashant Vihar on Thursday. They were, however, contained by the police after which they knocked down a few barricades and fled.
A group of miscreants also gathered near Alipur in north Delhi where they were again confronted by police and dispersed. A group of them also tried to instigate some school students to stage a protest near Timarpur and managed to block a road for some time. However the situation was brought under control when a police force reached the scene.
The first incident was reported around 11am near the PVR Prashant Vihar when a group of 20-25 demonstrators tried to create a ruckus. However, a police team posted near the hall, chased them away. While fleeing, the men knocked down a few barricades and charged at the onlookers clicking their photographs. Police say security around the hall was increased following this.
“We detained a few of them for some time until the others dispersed. They were released later in the evening,” said Rajneesh Gupta, DCP, Rohini.
Around 4pm, a group of 100-125 protesters went on a sit-in protest near Rithala Metro station and blocked the road for a while. They tried to convince visitors to the malls to stay away from watching the movie and dispersed around 6pm. A large police force was deployed around the protest venue to prevent the protesters from creating a ruckus.
The third incident was reported from near a PVR cinema hall near Maurya Enclave in northwest Delhi, where a group of miscreants claiming to be from the Karni Sena, smashed the rear windshields of four vehicles parked outside the movie hall. They had fled before the locals could chase them. Police say that a case under sections of causing damage to property was registered based on the complaint by the car owners.
“We have registered a case and are trying to identify the miscreants. Some of the CCTV footages from the areas are being scanned,” said Aslam Khan, DCP, north-west.
At Alipur, some miscreants on motorbike tried to park their vehicles on the road and stage a protest but were pushed out of the area by a police team.
Violence at a few places marred the otherwise peaceful screenings of Padmaavat movie at in Noida and Ghaziabad amid heightened security around cinemas and on main roads. However, there was no screening of the movie in Greater Noida as Omaxe mall at Pari Chowk cancelled the shows at the last minute, fearing protests and violence.
In Noida’s Barolla village, a group of men attacked a UP roadways bus and smashed its window panes, demanding a ban on the movie. The protesters also tried to set the bus on fire but the driver managed to speed away. The bus was going from Phase II to Sector 37 bus depot when the incident took place. Some passengers received minor injuries as the protesters smashed its windshield glasses. They fled the spot before cops arrived.