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SHOWDOWN: Dalit Sangharsha Samiti activists stage `rasta roko' at Town Hall Circle in Bangalore on Thursday to press their demands.
SHOWDOWN: Dalit Sangharsha Samiti activists stage `rasta roko' at Town Hall Circle in Bangalore on Thursday to press their demands.

Staff Reporter

Activists go on rampage after a quarrel with stranded motorists

BANGALORE: The police resorted to lathicharge to disperse Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (DSS) activists, who blocked traffic near the busy Sir Puttanna Chetty Town Hall junction and stoned the stranded vehicles on Thursday afternoon.

Following the road blockade, vehicular movement in the central parts of the city was severely affected for two hours. The police said nearly 50 vehicles, including Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses, were damaged in the violence.

According to police, DSS (N. Murthy faction) took out a procession from a slum near Ragigudda in J.P. Nagar to the Chief Minister's official residence to protest against the slum clearance drive taken up by civic agencies.

The police told the protesters that they would not be allowed to go to the Chief Minister's residence and instead they could hold a meeting at the Bannappa Park. Nearly 1,500 people, including 500 women, came in a procession under Mr. Murthy's leadership and blocked the Town Hall junction around 1.30 p.m.

They insisted that Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy should come there and redress their grievance. When the protesters did not disperse even after an hour, the stranded motorists picked a quarrel with them, the police said.

Following heated exchange of words with the motorists, the DSS activists allegedly started hurling stones at the vehicles that were caught in the traffic jam.

They smashed the windscreens of BMTC buses and cars with the bamboo sticks of the banners they were carrying, the police said.

When the situation went out of control, the police resorted to lathicharge and quelled the mob. Some activists were reportedly injured in the lathicharge. While Mr. Murthy "managed to escape," the police arrested 55 DSS activists on the charge of rioting. The Silver Jubilee Park police have registered a case.

Following the rasta roko and the violence, traffic was thrown out of gear on J.C. Road, N.R. Road, Kempegowda Road, Kasturba Road, Lalbagah Road, R.V. Road, Minerva Circle, and Hudson Circle. Vehicular movement was also affected all along the procession's route, the police said.

A senior official told The Hindu that the DSS activists had informed the police that they would arrive at Bannappa Park in vehicles. But they walked the distance from Ragigudda slum.

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