Lakhs attend Maratha morcha in Mumbai

ST Correspondent
Friday, 11 August 2017

“Youngsters who were not obeying the rules were not associated with the Maratha Morcha or belong to our community,” said one of the co-coordinators on the condition of anonymity.

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. he 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. 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.  Later, a delegation of Maratha leaders met the chief minister and submitted a memorandum listing their demands. The morcha ended after an assurance from CM.

Morcha may lose tag of being disciplined march
MUMBAI: The Maratha community organised morchas in different districts to highlight their demands. These morchas set an example of discipline and solidarity of the people. It was appreciated by the police and various agencies across the section. But the morcha organised in Mumbai ruined its image. 

The Marathas were holding silent morchas for their demands including punishment of culprits in the Kopardi rape and murder case, quota in education and government jobs, amendment in SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) to stop its misuse, loan waiver to farmers to curb suicides and guaranteed rate for agricultural produce. Till date, there were 57 morchas were held in various districts and all of them set an example of how the morchas and protests should be.  On Wednesday, many unwanted elements participated in the morcha and were shouting slogans, even after frequent warning from the volunteers. It was observed that some political activists also participated in the morcha and they were more activists than Marathas. Hence, they refused to listen to the volunteers. 

The protesters participating in previous morchas never teased or harmed others. On Wednesday, it was seen that many youngsters were enjoying the fun. Many of them reached the Chowpatty even before the morcha concluded.  “Youngsters who were not obeying the rules were not associated with the Maratha Morcha or belong to our community,” said one of the co-coordinators on the condition of anonymity. 

- Muslims from Balochistan, Mumbai extend support
The Maratha Morcha has got support from neighbouring Pakistan. A group of Bugti Marathas, the descendants of prisoners during the last war of Panipat, who settled in Balochistan, have backed the protest.  
“Chief Maratha Qaumi Ittehad fully supports this protest. In India, the community is facing injustice. I condemn it. Reservation in government jobs and education should be given to the Maratha community, which is its national right. Disfavour with the community will not be tolerated. We are with the community in every protest,” Wadera Din Muhammad, chief of Maratha Qaumi Ittehad, Pakistan, said in a Facebook post.

- Members of the Muslim community from Bhendi Bazaar and Mohammad Ali Road displayed their solidarity with the Maratha Morcha. They helped the participants by serving water, food packets on Mohammad Ali Road. 

- Political parties were competing with each other to associate with the morcha. Hoardings of their leaders were installed on the morcha route. Protesters in the morcha requested workers to remove the posters as it was not a political rally. 

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