Pune (Maharashtra), Feb 25 : The Maharashtra police on Monday brutally caned a large gathering of specially-abled youth, including women, outside the Social Welfare Commissionerate headquarters, sparking outrage.
The large group of “hearing-impaired and speech-impaired” youth had gathered from all over Maharashtra for highlighting various demands, including setting up separate schools, colleges and vocational training institutes, for the specially-abled people and making provisions for jobs.
In the caning, at least 40 youths were injured, including some seriously, and now the irate youth and their families have threatened to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, according to their leader, Manoj Patwari.
They were taken to a hospital by the police and allegedly abandoned — without even ascertaining how they would communicate with doctors. Several van loads of the protesters, including women, were detained for several hours in the local police stations.
Rushing to the spot, Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule came down heavily on the police, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government of acting like “General Dyer” and “arrogance of power” by assaulting the deaf-mute youth, and children.
Converging here from all over the state, the deaf-mute youth sought to know the status of their demands and threatened to take out a long march to Mumbai, where the Maharashtra Legislature is currently in session.
However, the police denied them permission and resorted to lathi-charge. Many men and women could be seen screaming but were unable to utter words.
After the caning, many of the activists addressed a spontaneous rally in ‘sign language’ and the gathering could be seen clapping and cheering, while another large group sat nearby in a circle holding a candlelight vigil.
“Please don’t go on hunger strike. Kindly eat something and remain fit if you want to fight the government. The CM must make a statement on this — he is a total failure,” said Supriya Sule who met the gathering in the evening.
Congress President Ashok Chavan strongly condemned the incident and has demanded stringent action again the police for their action.
Leader of Opposition in Council Dhananjay Munde demanded immediate suspension of all the policemen involved in the assault.
“They are only fighting for their rights, they want education facilities and employment opportunities. They are not robbers or murderers for the police to behave like this,” said Munde.
Leader of Opposition in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said by this “inhuman caning” of the differently-abled youth, the government’s insensitive attitude has come to the fore.
“The time has come to remove this government in the next elections. The incident must be probed and the demands of the deaf-mute youth must be immediately conceded,” Vikhe-Patil said.
While Supriya Sule said she would join the all-night dharna tonight, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray rushed from Mumbai to meet the protestors and said he would speak with the Chief Minister on the issue.
Meanwhile, late this evening, Minister of State for Social Justice Dilip Kamble called up the students and urged them to call off their agitation.
Ordering a probe into the incident, the minister invited them to Mumbai on Tuesday for talks, but the youth said they have not yet decided on accepting the offer.