Violent protests erupted and spread across the south east and northern parts of Bengaluru city on Tuesday as garment factory workers took to the streets protesting against amendments to the provident fund (PF) scheme. More than 100 people, including two who are suspected to have been hit by bullets fired by the police to control the mobs, were injured and more than 100 public transport buses damaged.
In an unprecedented act of violence, which police suspect was caused by lumpen elements in the guise of garment workers, the protesters targeted Hebbagodi police station and two units of Biocon, besides scores of private properties, forcing the police to impose prohibitory orders for the next three days in the city, and Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts.
Several highways connecting the city remained blocked as, in an unprecedented show of strength, nearly 1 lakh workers, mostly women, took to the streets on Tuesday at several places, taking authorities by surprise. Clearly, the policemen were outnumbered, as violence spread from Bommanahalli to Anekal and later to Hebbagodi and Jalahalli — all of which are clusters for garment factories.
The workers, who had blocked Hosur Road on Monday, were protesting against amendments to the provident fund scheme that prevents them from withdrawing the entire PF till they attain 58 years. It was at Hebbagodi on Hosur Road in Electronics City, and at Jalahalli on National Highway 4 that the violence was intense. Police had to open fire in the air as well as fire 100 rounds of teargas shells, besides resorting to lathi-charge to disperse a large crowd that ransacked the police station and set vehicles on fire. While Preethi (19) and Manjunathappa (44), who were near the scene of violence, were injured and are being treated for suspected bullet injuries, the police claimed that they had only opened fire in the air and had not aimed at anyone.
The protesters also turned their ire at Biocon and indulged in arson by setting several vehicles on fire and attacking the security guards.