India: Mumbai taxi drivers strike against violence

Mumbai taxi drivers strike

Taxi drivers in Mumbai launched the wildcat on Thursday after the offices of the Bombay Taxi Union were attacked.

The strike which involved most of Mumbai's 55,000 taxi drivers was called off after two hours, after ministers made assurances over security. State home secretary Chitkala Zutshi also attempted to downplay the violence: "All miscreants will be dealt with severely. We mean to maintain law and order. There have been sporadic incidents but we are going to deal with the situation very firmly,” The Bombay Taxi Association did not join the strike but demanded that compensation be paid to the BTU.

On Thursday 30-40 activists from the MNS party attacked the BTU offices, assaulting drivers, destroying equipment and damaging vehicles. The attack comes against a backdrop of violence by activists from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) political party. The party, a split from the Shiv Sena, is notable for its hodtility to migrants from northern India, blaming them for unemployment.

The trigger for the violence, which is entering its fifth day, appears to have been a speech given by party leader Raj Thackeray on Sunday, since then there have been reports of attacks on street vendors, rickshaw drivers (including at least two cases of arson), taxi drivers and even commuters. 200 party members left in protest at the anti-northern Indian stance and rejoined Shiv Sena. The MNS has also been engaged in street fighting with the rival Samajwadi Party, which has seen 73 MNS activists arrested and 19 from the SP.