Thane villagers end stir after Chavan’s assurance

Mumbai, March 5 (IANS) Several thousand villagers ran amok in Thane’s Vasai area Friday as police attempted to break their four-day long agitation for delinking 53 villages from the local municipal corporation. The stir was later withdrawn after Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan assured a solution within a fortnight.

Speaking in Kolhapur, Chavan said he would convene an all-party meeting within 15 days to sort out the issue of delinking the 53 villages from the Virar-Vasai Municipal Corporation (VVMC).

The agitation crowned the indefinite hunger strike launched by Vasai legislator Vivek Pandit, whose condition became alarming by Friday morning. Pandit called off his fast after the chief minister’s assurance.

‘He has called off the hunger strike and the agitation and we shall now await further instructions from the state government following the CM’s statement,’ Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislative council member Sanjay Kelkar told IANS.

Chavan also called up Pandit and assured him that the issue would be solved within a week.

Earlier in the day, agitating villagers stoned two state-owned transport buses and torched one bus while attacking a police van, forcing police to baton-charge the crowds coming in from nearby villages.

Police summoned reinforcements from neighbouring areas like Bhayander, Nalla Sopara and Virar and deployed the Anti-Rioting Squad and Rapid Action Force to control the agitators in the area. The situation is now fully under control, police said.

The villagers, mainly belonging to the Shramjeevi Sanghatana, enforced a shutdown in nearby villages and also blocked road traffic to protest what a party office-bearer termed ‘police high-handedness’.

The fasting Pandit was forcibly shifted by the police in an ambulance to Thane Civil Hospital, around 40 km away.

Pandit’s aide Ramesh Kini told IANS that the legislator and his wife Vidyulata were among the nearly 65 protesters who suffered injuries during the police cane-charge.

The 53 affected villages have a total population of around 60,000.

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