Raj Thackeray Rally Against Railway Conditions Draws Crowds in Mumbai

Soon after the stampede in Mumbai, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday threatened not to allow the construction of bullet train infrastructure in Mumbai until the existing rail network was fixed.

Vinaya Deshpande , CNN-News18
Mumbai: As Raj Thackeray called on Mumbaikars to join his protest against train services in Mumbai following the Elphinstone stampede, irate city dwellers took to the streets in large numbers. Hundreds of MNS supporters gathered at the Metro cinema at Marine lines on Thursday morning.

While Raj Thackeray is yet to arrive for the rally, hoardings and banners against the much-hyped Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project have been put up at various places.

Soon after the stampede in Mumbai, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday threatened not to allow the construction of bullet train infrastructure in Mumbai until the existing rail network was fixed.

Thackeray came out all guns blazing against the BJP-led central and state government, saying it was false to say rains caused the death of 23 people. "They (Railway) say it happened due to the rains... It is not the first time that it rained in Mumbai," he said.

A large number of people gathered on the Elphinstone road station footover bridge on Friday morning when heavy rains lashed the area. According to a Railway spokesperson, a person slipped and chaos ensued, leading to a stampede, killing 23 people and injuring several others.

"People are dying here, after falling off the trains. Small children have to cross railway tracks on their foot as there are no bridges. Women do not have washrooms at the stations. What is the government doing? Where are all these facilities? Mumbaikars are dying here and our government wants bullet trains. We will not allow any bullet trains here. Give us these facilities first. Spend the money on Mumbaikars," an angry woman protester said at the gathering.

Meanwhile, the rally has already caused massive traffic disruptions in South Mumbai. While the police did not give a formal permission to the protest, a heavy bandobast was seen in the area.

"We had written to the police seeking permission. But we haven't yet been granted permission. We have told the police that we will abide by the laws. This is an outburst of the ordinary Mumbaikar. We are only leading it," said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS leader.

Shalini Thackeray, a prominent MNS leader, said, “The agitation demonstrates how Mumbaikars can come out against the government spontaneously. The government is in shambles. The Elphinstone stampede is an example of the inefficiency of the government. We are not against progress. But we want basic infrastructure for Mumbai."