THE ONLY other time the Mumbai Police had to maintain bandobast for two major events on a single day in the city was when Ganesh Chatruthi and Moharram fell on the same day on a few occasions in the past. On Wednesday, the force will again be out in large numbers to ensure that no law and order issues arise when the two factions of the Shiv Sena hold rallies at Shivaji Park and MMRDA ground in BKC simultaneously.
What will add to their challenges, though, is that the nearly 35,000-strong force, which is already facing shortfall of 9,000 personnel, will also be providing bandobast for Durga visarjan at various beaches on Wednesday.
An official said that for both rallies and the visarjan, a total of 3,200 officers, 1,52,00 personnel, 1,500 State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) personnel, 1000 home guards, 20 Quick Response Teams and 15 Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) teams would be present. A senior IPS official said that more than the two grounds — Shivaji Park and MMRDA ground — they are anxious about the route to these two places where there is a likelihood of supporters of the two factions running into each other.
“Once they reach the ground, there is not much to worry about. However, when it comes to supporters of both factions coming from other parts of the state, we are worried about them coming face-to-face with each other en route to the two grounds. Hence, we have provided more police personnel along the route,” the IPS officer said.
The official pointed out two particular road stretches where the two sides could end up coming across one another. Of the two main exits, those coming from outside Mumbai can enter either through Vashi or Thane. Those coming from Vashi will use the same stretch of road from Vashi bridge to Somaiya ground after which
supporters of the Uddhav Thackeray group will carry on ahead while those heading to BKC for CM Eknath Shinde’s rally will take the right turn, the officer said.
“We will be having a number of checkpoints from Vashi bridge till Somaiya grounds including Chembur Naka and other such junctions. If buses/vehicles from rival factions come face to face, our personnel will be able to diffuse the situation. Similar will be the case when they leave from the grounds after the function,” the
official added. On the Thane end too, vehicles will share space on the Eastern Express highway where there will be police presence to avoid any issue.
“At spots where alternate routes were available, we asked the two sides to come through different routes and have provided them directions for the same. Our control room will also be tracking the movement of these vehicles once they enter the city to see if they are abiding by the instructions,” the officer said.
Further, the Kherwadi police rejected permission sought by those affiliated to the Thackeray faction to walk to Shivaji Park from Matoshree — the Thackeray residence in Bandra (east) on the ground that the route will be used by Shinde faction supporters which could lead to a law and order situation.
Similarly, a circular issued to police stations across the city stated that with around 4,000 buses and 10,000 vehicles expected to enter the city for the rallies, local police stations along with traffic police units should ensure that there were no traffic issues that could lead to supporters of either of the factions walking on the road, which could further create a law and order situation. The circular further stated that vehicle breakdowns could inconvenience common citizens who will also be out for Durga visarjan.