Lakhs attend Maratha morcha at Azad Maidan

ST Correspondent
Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Mumbai: Thoroughfares from Byculla to Azad Maidan on Wednesday resembled a saffron sea as thousands of members of the Maratha community took part in a march to highlight their various demands, including reservations in government jobs and educational institutions and the death penalty for the accused in the Kopardi rape and murder case.
This was the last of the 58 morchas staged over a period of one year across the state. The march was organised by the Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella organisation of various community groups.

Mumbai: Thoroughfares from Byculla to Azad Maidan on Wednesday resembled a saffron sea as thousands of members of the Maratha community took part in a march to highlight their various demands, including reservations in government jobs and educational institutions and the death penalty for the accused in the Kopardi rape and murder case.
This was the last of the 58 morchas staged over a period of one year across the state. The march was organised by the Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella organisation of various community groups.
According to the police estimate, there were around 1.5 lakh participants at the starting point in Byculla. However, it was difficult to estimate the number as all main roads in south Mumbai were chock-a-block with protestors.
The Maratha Kranti Silent Morcha started from Byculla at around 11 am towards Azad Maidan via the JJ flyover. Several protesters opted to travel by local trains to beat traffic jams and reached Byculla. Many protesters started walking toward Azad Maidan even before the march began.
The magnitude of the morcha was so huge that the JJ Flyover was packed with people. Traffic on the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road was closed from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to Parel from both sides. Though the police kept a parallel lane open for traffic, no motorist ventured on the road till 1 pm. Traffic came to a standstill in many parts of the business district while protestors crowded suburban trains.
The official morcha route was via the JJ flyover, but a large number of participants were seen walking on Mohammad Ali Road (below the flyover). Hence, the police had to close the road for traffic. The roads in the vicinity of the morcha routes were full of people wearing saffron flags, scarfs and caps. But there were no banners or placards bearing political messages. All trains entering the city were packed with protesters, who reached Azad Maidan directly.
A group of young girls led the morcha followed by women and men from the community in that order. As the girls reached Azad Maidan and climbed up the stage, others occupied the ground. The girls delivered speeches.    
The slogan of the morcha, ‘EK Maratha, Lakh Maratha’ was being raised during the procession and at Azad Maidan, where it culminated.
Senior citizens, along with youngsters, participated in the rally waving saffron flags. The police said it was an unprecedented rally devoid of any untoward incident. Over 10,000 policemen were deployed to guard the march, while several drones and CCTV cameras kept a watch. The lanes and bylanes in the Fort area were full of protesters. The Nagar Chowk and the road opposite the CSMT and the BMC head office were also packed with morcha participants. Railway platforms were also jam packed.
Though the authorities anticipated that five to eight lakh people will take part in the morcha, there were no official estimates available.
Several top leaders of various parties also joined the procession and interacted with participants but they had to sit in the audience. BJP Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar was allegedly heckled at Azad Maidan but he later denied any such incident.
While schools in south Mumbai were asked to remain shut, commuters faced hassles as roads were shut for traffic till late in the afternoon.
Later, a delegation of Maratha leaders met the chief minister and submitted a memorandum listing their demands. The morcha ended after an assurance from Fadnavis.

 

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