THANE/MUMBAI —A 30-year-old man was detained for allegedly attempting to slap Union minister Ramdas Athawale at a public event in Maharashtra's Thane district on Saturday night, police said.
The Republican Party of India (Athawale) chief was in Ambernath town of Thane district to address a rally and the attempted attack on him triggered statewide protests by his supporters Sunday.
Athawale had just got off the dais after delivering a speech on the Constitution when the incident happened at around 10.15 pm, a police officer said Sunday.
Pravin Gosavi, on the pretext of garlanding Athawale, allegedly tried to slap him, following which the people around the Union minister overpowered him, beat him up and handed him over to the police.
The minister of state for social justice and empowerment was not harmed as the bystanders and the police managed to foil Gosavi's attempt to assault him, the officer said.
Gosavi, who was first admitted to a hospital in Ulhasnagar town following the public beating, was shifted to a state-run hospital in Mumbai, the police said.
"We have registered a case under sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) of the Indian Penal Code. Gosavi has been detained and not arrested as yet," inspector K G Chavan, attached to the Ambernath police station, said.
While a probe was underway to ascertain why Gosavi had tried to attack the minister, a senior police officer said it could have been out of frustration for having been expelled from the RPI(A).
"Gosavi's membership was terminated by the Republican Party of India (Athawale) a year ago for criminal activities as he was blackmailing people through RTI (Right to Information) pleas," P P Shewale, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV), Thane, told PTI.
"He may have been frustrated over it (expulsion from the party) and may have tried to manhandle the Union minister," the DCP said.
A video of the incident has gone viral on the social media.
Angry over the incident, supporters of Athawale staged protests, observed a "bandh" and attempted to block road and rail traffic Sunday in several parts of the state, including Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Aurangabad districts, police officials said.
RPI(A) activists tried to stage a "rasta roko" at Anand Nagar in Thane in the afternoon, they said, adding that at least five of them were taken into custody by the police.
Protests were staged at Kongaon in Bhiwandi and at Kalyan, where Athawale's supporters shouted slogans denouncing Gosavi's act, they said.
In Mumbai, demonstrations were held at Bandra, Worli, Dahisar and Mulund, the officials said.
Around 60 supporters of Athawale entered the premises of the Nashik Road railway station and blocked the passage of a passenger train, which was scheduled to leave for Bhusawal in Jalgaon district, they added.
Personnel from the Railway Protection Force (RPF), the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the local police intervened and scattered the protesters, the officials said.
In another incident, RPI(A) workers staged a "rail roko" at the Aurangabad railway station and halted the Tapovan Express for some time, they added.
The police swung into action and took the protesters into custody to clear the way for the train, the officials said, adding that they were released subsequently.
A "bandh" was observed in Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, Kalyan, Dombivli, Sahapur and Murbad towns in Thane district to protest against the incident.
Local RPI(A) leader Rambhau Tayde said citizens in various parts of the state observed a spontaneous "bandh".
There was a heavy police deployment in Ambernath, considered an RPI(A) stronghold, and other nearby towns to maintain peace.
Additional Commissioner of Police (East Zone) Pratap Dighavkar condemned the incident and said Athawale's complaint that his police protection was inadequate would be looked into.
He added that the policemen present at the scene should have protected Gosavi, who was thrashed by the public.