The nationwide bandh called by the NDA and Left parties to protest the petrol price hike on Thursday evoked a mixed response amid incidents of stone pelting, arson and road blockades in Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
In the national capital, the bandh did not evoke much response though party supporters blocked traffic in some places.
Small shops were seen open in many areas in the morning while commuters complained that there were less autos on roads as a number of auto and taxi unions have joined the protest.
In the financial capital, Mumbai, bandh supporters pelted stones at buses in two suburban areas of the city. Elsewhere in Maharashtra, activists pelted stones at 13 buses in Pune, 10 in Nagpur and Thane districts and stopped some buses by blocking roads in Satara district
Local trains and buses were plying as usual in most parts of Mumbai.
The bandh disrupted normal life in parts of BJP-ruled Karnataka where bandh supporters set on fire three buses and stoned about a dozen others forcing authorities to withdraw bus services in the city. Public transport was hit and shops and business establishments remained shut in several parts of Karnataka.
There was no impact of the bandh in Kerala and a lukewarm response to the stir in Tamil Nadu.
In Bihar, NDA Convener and JD-U national president Sharad Yadav and BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain were among 800 activists taken into custody while enforcing the bandh.
Mr. Yadav, who along with 700 odd supporters took out processions in Saharsa town to enforce the call, was taken into custody.
Mr. Hussain, the BJP National Spokesman, and others were detained in Bhagalpur town while trying to enforce the bandh.
Mr. Yadav demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resign immediately for the “failure” of his government to control the spiralling prices of petroleum products and essential commodities.
In West Bengal, bandh supporters blocked some roads in some areas and squatted on railway tracks.
Bandh supporters blocked the Howrah Bridge, which connects the metropolis to the Howrah district. They also blocked roads at Chapadali more in Barasat, in Bankura district, Budge Budge and some other places, police said.
However, buses, cars, taxis, trams were running in the metropolis though in less number.
Normal life was affected in Punjab due to the strike.
Commercial establishments in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Batala, Kapurthala, Pathankot and Amritsar remained closed, though factories and other industrial units were operational.
The impact of bandh was also visible on the transport network with buses including private ones remaining off the road, causing inconvenience to people, as per reports pouring in from various districts including Patiala, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Kapurthala.
However, in Chandigarh, shops and commercial establishments remained open and buses were plying as usual.
In Congress-led Haryana, the bandh call did not evoke much response with shops and commercial establishments remaining open at most of the places in the state.
Markets were closed in major cities of Rajasthan and private buses off the road due to the bandh.
The unprecedented hike in petrol prices has helped the Left and the Right to make common cause for the nationwide protest, described by BJP and its allies as Bharat Bandh and by Left as All India Protest Day.
This is the second time that the BJP, Left and other non-Congress parties will be coordinating their agitations since the last Lok Sabha elections to give the impression of a wider Opposition unity on issues concerning people.
A similar agitation against petrol price hike had happened on July 5, 2010.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, which is supporting the UPA government from outside, has also given the bandh call as has BJD in Odisha.
Normal life in Assam affected
Normal life in Assam was affected during the bandh called by the NDA and several other parties, including the opposition AGP, to protest the hike in petrol prices.
Schools and colleges were closed besides some financial institutions. Government offices reported thin attendance while vehicular traffic was off the road.
Bandh supporters blocked train movement by squatting on the railway tracks at Maligaon but police evicted them, police sources said.
“Their is no report of any untoward incident and the situation is normal”, Assam director general of police Jayanta Narayan Choudhury said.
Jharkhand hit by bandh
Normal life in Jhakrhand came to a grinding halt during the 12-hour bandh called by the NDA in protest against the petrol price hike.
Three Rajdhani Express trains were held up in different places in Koderma and Giridih districts when agitating supporters of BJP and CPI (ML-Liberation) squatted on rail tracks.
Roads wore a deserted look in many districts like Ranchi, Hazaribagh, West and East Singhbhum, Dumka, Latehar, Palamau, Gumla, Sahebganj and Lohardaga with bus and truck owners deciding to suspend their services.
Mineral transport was affected in several districts as trucks went off the roads.
Shops and business establishments were closed while supporters of BJP, JDU, JMM and Left parties separately held demonstrations in various places and blocked road traffic on NH-75 and Grand Trunk Road.
However, government offices remained open.
The Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, Delhi-Kolkata Rajdhani Express and Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani Express were detained at different points in Koderma and Giridih districts for about three hours, the police said.
NDA supporters disrupted train services in Koderma while the CPI (ML-Liberation) activists separately held Chakkajam (blockade) on the tracks at Jarandih in Koderma district, according to police sources.
Rail Police Force Commander (Dhanbad) Shashi Kumar said that a case had been booked under IPC 174 (not obeying a legal order) against the agitators.
He, however, said the situation had returned to normal.
CPI (ML-Liberation) supporters also blocked the Grand Trunk Road in Giridih and squatted on rail tracks in Hazaribagh to disrupt vehicular and train traffic.
JMM supporters detained Tata-Badam Pahar passenger train on the outskirts of Jamshedpur.
In Ranchi, supporters of BJP and JDU held demonstrations at the busy Albert Ekka Chowk and took out protest-marches on the main thoroughfares, raising anti-UPA slogans and demanding immediate rollback of the petroleum prices.
There were no untoward incidents anywhere, barring one or two incidents like smashing glass panes of a couple of auto rickshaws in Jamshedpur, the police said.