A union of traders in Maharashtra that earlier objected to the state government calling a bandh today in protest against last week's violence in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri, where four farmers were among eight people killed, has decided to support the bandh.
"After the request of Shiv Sena and other party leaders, we have decided to keep shops closed till 4 pm in support of the bandh call by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in protest against killing of Farmers," Viren Shah, chief of Federation of Retail Traders' Welfare Association (FRTWA), said in an amended statement on Sunday.
Earlier, FRTWA said traders are only limping back to business after intermittent lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the bandh would hit their earnings. "We have suffered huge losses for the past 18 months due to lockdown. Our business is slowly picking up. In middle of the festival season when customers have started coming out to shop, let us do our business peacefully. We appeal to the government to allow retail businesses to remain open. We hope that shopkeepers are not harassed or forced to remain shut," Mr Shah had said.
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government comprising the Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP is supporting the bandh. In fact, the state government itself announced the bandh at a joint press conference of the three parties.
"I request 12 crore people of Maharashtra to support the farmers. Support means all of you join the bandh and stop your work for a day," Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik told reporters.
The state government said everything will be closed except for essential services.
The traders appear, however, to be stuck in a political crossfire, as the BJP has said it will not allow "forced closure of shops" to support the bandh.
"If shopkeepers are forced to close shops tomorrow by any of the MVA karyakartas, they will have to face BJP karyakartas. Police should ensure no one is forced or else there will be a law and order situation, which is not our responsibility," Maharashtra BJP leader Nitesh Rane tweeted.
Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra had been named in a police case filed by farmers who said he drove into a gathering of slogan-shouting demonstrators amid a peaceful black-flag protest last Sunday.