Tension follows Buddhist Bhikku's death in Mumbai

Press Trust of India, Jan 7, 2008

MUMBAI, India -- Tension prevailed in various places across the city on Sunday following the alleged suicide of a Buddhist priest opposing a redevelopment project in north east Mumbai's Deonar, police said.

Sporadic incidents of arson, stone pelting and shops being forcibly shut were reported from various places in the city as the news of the suicide spread.

Impromptu and ''leaderless'' protest marches were also carried out by various groups in the city following the incident.

The situation seemed to be under control by late evening with heavy security arrangements, including the deployment of reserve forces, being made by the police.

Badant Sanghraj Thairo (75), the priest of Sandesh Buddh Vihar near Deonar slaughter-house was found dead at his residence (behind the shrine) this morning.

According to police, they found a piece of rope lying by his side, and it seemed to be suicide. They however, added that the body has been sent for a postmortem and the cause of the death will be known only when the report is made available.

However, local residents, as well as some colleagues of the priest suspected it to be a murder and filed a complaint with the police, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone VI) Niket Kaushik said.

According to Kaushik, Thairo along with other ''Bhikkus'', was opposing a Slum Rehabilitation Authority redevelopment project carried out by Lakdawala Builders in the area, while office bearers of the local Buddha Vihar Society supported it.

As the news of the death spread, some local residents burnt a warehouse of the builder situated nearby and also torched some vehicles apart from stone pelting on some government buses, police said.

Incidents of stone pelting and arson were reported from nearby Mankhurd, Pant Nagar and Chembur areas. People also held portest marches in Khar and Bhoiwada areas demanding a thorough probe into the matter.

Minor stone pelting on government buses were also reported from the sensitive suburb of Kurla wherein residents of the Buddha Nagar ventured on to the roads.

Stating that two enraged youths were detained in the Thakur village area as a preventive measure, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone XII) Shivaji Bodke said the police was able to restrict the protests due to the various initiatives like the Mohalla Committee meetings.

Multiple companies of the State Reserve Police Force have been deployed at various sensitive pockets across the city in the night, a senior police officer said.