Disturbing scenes unfolded during Monday’s Karnataka bandh as protesters in Bangalore resorted to violence, manhandling, slapping, and verbally abusing drivers and commuters, all of which were captured in videos circulating on social media. In addition to these confrontations, reports emerged of vehicles being vandalized in Bengaluru, where the bandh garnered significant support.
A video shared on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) depicted an incident in Bengaluru where protesters halted two men on a bike. In this shocking encounter, one protester slapped the bike-taxi passenger, while another physically assaulted the driver.
The 24-hour bandh had been called by the Federation of the Karnataka State Private Transport Associations, as they sought to exert pressure on the government to meet their demands. These demands included the withdrawal of the Shakti scheme, which offers free bus travel to women passengers.
In response to the disruption caused by the bandh, the Bengaluru Metro Rail Transport Corporation (BMRCL) took action by increasing the frequency of its trains, reducing the time between each train from 10 minutes to just 5 minutes. This move was aimed at accommodating commuters who were left without private transportation options.
The Federation of the Karnataka State Private Transport Associations decided to withdraw the bandh at 2:30 pm on Monday following assurances from state Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy that their demands would be addressed. However, it’s important to note that not all of the federation’s demands will be fulfilled. Specifically, the withdrawal of the Shakti scheme, monthly grants to auto drivers, and the exemption of life tax on vehicles costing between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh will not be granted.
This bandh, supported by over 30 private transport associations and farmers’ groups, led to the suspension of private bus, taxi, auto, and goods vehicle services, causing significant inconvenience to commuters. Many schools in Bengaluru had to close temporarily due to the ongoing protests, forcing parents to make alternate arrangements for their children’s transportation since school buses and private transportation services were unavailable.
The statewide bandh, organized by the Federation of Private Transporters in Karnataka, primarily in protest against the Shakti scheme and other grievances, has garnered substantial support, particularly in Bengaluru. According to protesters, the introduction of the Shakti scheme had a detrimental impact on the businesses of private transporters.
Office-goers and the general public, who rely on taxis and autos for their daily commute, were among the hardest hit by the bandh. Travelers heading to Bengaluru International Airport also faced difficulties since taxis are a preferred mode of transportation to the airport.
In one particularly distressing incident, a taxi driver en route to the airport with a passenger was intercepted by protesters who subjected him to physical assault, spitting, and pelting with eggs. His vehicle was also vandalized. Auto-rickshaw drivers providing services faced similar attacks, with their vehicles being damaged, and their windows smashed.
In response to these acts of violence, the SJ Park police in Bengaluru took three individuals into custody.