- Vinay Dubey put social media posts urging migrants to return to villages
- In a video, he asks government to organise journey home for migrants
- Thousands defied lockdown at Mumbai's Bandra station on Tuesday
An activist accused of starting rumours with his social media posts and a television journalist who cited an internal railway ministry note on a special train for migrants have been arrested by the Maharashtra government over a gathering of hundreds at Mumbai's Bandra station last evening, which has raised a huge coronavirus scare. An FIR for rioting has been filed against 1,000 people.
Activist Vinay Dubey, blamed for instigating migrants with social media posts like "Chalo Ghar Ki Ore (let's head home)", was arrested from his home in Navi Mumbai this morning.
In a video in wide circulation since yesterday, Dubey is heard asking the government to organize a journey home for the migrants. "I request that after the lockdown gets over on April 14, the state government arrange trains to UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal. They can be quarantined once they get there... They are desperate here, they will die of hunger, if not from coronavirus...We will wait till 14th or 15th, if government does not do anything, I, Vinay Dubey, will start the journey with those migrants on foot...," the activist says in the video.
The television journalist was arrested this evening and charged with "spreading misinformation", Mumbai police officer Abhishek Trimukhe told news agency ANI. But there is no reference in the charges to the railway ministry note that he had cited, which, the police suspect, may have prompted the massive gathering near a railway station at suburban Bandra hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the lockdown till May 3.
The railway ministry's internal note was on a decision to run a "Jan Sadharan" train for migrants stranded by the lockdown. The internal communication, issued after a meeting on April 13, "has been withdrawn" as the lockdown was extended yesterday, a senior railways officer told NDTV.
The journalist had posted the note in a tweet before his detention. "Many 'well-known' people found the opportunity to troll me. Many did not know that I had watched my news report at 9 am. Did I say when the trains will start? Now, read this letter from the Railways," he tweeted last night.
आनेक गणमान्यांनी मला ट्रोल करण्याची संधी साधली. त्यातल्या किती जणांनी सकाळी ९ वाजता मी दिलेली बातमी पाहिली हे माहित नाही. कधी ट्रेन सूरू होनार हे आम्ही सांगितले होते का...? आता हे रेल्वेचे पत्र वाचा. pic.twitter.com/O46QTqnbOc— Rahul Kulkarni (@RahulAsks) April 14, 2020
Questions have been raised over the railways ministry even discussing such a train at this time. "If it was more or less decided at a meeting of the PM and Chief Ministers on April 12 that the lockdown would be extended, how come railways officials were preparing a plan to run a special train? Who spread the rumour," questioned Sanjay Singh, a leader of Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), tweeting the railways note.
अगर 12 अप्रैल की मुख्यमंत्रियों के साथ प्रधानमंत्री की मीटिंग में लगभग तय हो गया था की "Lock Down" बढ़ेगा, तो फिर 13 अप्रैल को रेलवे के अधिकारी ट्रेन चलाने का प्रस्ताव क्यों तैयार कर रहे थे? भ्रम किसने फैलाया? pic.twitter.com/J76cbGmGBD— Sanjay Singh AAP (@SanjayAzadSln) April 15, 2020
The railways admitted the news report was "ostensibly based on an internal letter of communication within the Commercial department of the Zone, which has found its way on the Social Media". South Central Railways, which held the meeting, also tweeted a clarification this morning.
CLARIFICATION pic.twitter.com/FF8M0LvbmJ— SouthCentralRailway (@SCRailwayIndia) April 15, 2020
The abrupt shutdown since last month left thousands of migrant workers without jobs, food or shelter and pushed many to take their families and belongings and start for home on foot.
Many were stopped mid-way and put up in shelters, but the migrants complained of being packed into cramped quarters and of having to wait for hours for food.