Pune: Maratha agitators again hit the streets on Thursday for what was essentially a show of strength and to maintain pressure on the government amidst talks that reservation formalities will be completed by November this year.
The primarily agrarian community has been asking for reservations under the OBC category. The Maratha agitation has gone through multiple phases. Last year, more than 58 protest rallies were organised by the community, which were appreciated for their discipline, peacefulness and rejection of any central political leadership. But a year later, frustrated with government inaction and irked with the government’s announcement of a mega recruitment drive for 72,000 jobs, the Marathas have been agitating aggressively for almost a month now.
Making an occasion out of August 9 ‘Kranti Din’, the agitators had declared a massive but peaceful protest across the State at government offices and important crossroads. Accordingly, the protesters gathered in lakhs across the State in cities and towns, giving way to their anger through slogans against the chief minister and the government. However, violent reactions like stone pelting and vehicle damage too, erupted in many places.
Marathwada, which has been the centre of the renewed agitations, saw protesters come out on the streets by shaving their heads and also cooked on the roads with their families accompanying them. Stones were pelted at Latur Municipal Corporation. Aurangabad too saw instances of stone pelting and a youth from Kannad taluka attempted suicide by consuming poison. Another 32-year-old from Beed, Digambar Kadam, committed suicide.
In western Maharashtra, Sangli and Satara saw massive protests which remained mostly non-violent. Tyres were burnt at Shirol in Kolhapur district, while more than 2.5 lakh peaceful protesters gathered at Dasara Chowk in Kolhapur to register their protests. Organisers were finding it difficult to control the rowdy elements in these areas, but were able to keep things calm.
A strict bandh was observed all over the State, with many businesses voluntarily shutting down. Medical shops were open all throughout the day and transport services remained shut as a precautionary measure. The agitations also saw many constructive sights like the Muslim community joining hands with the Marathas and food being distributed to the police and the protesters by community organisations.
City sees shut down
The city saw a complete shut down of businesses, institutions, transport services and shops adhering to the call for a bandh. Protesters had gathered in thousands at Sambhaji Statue near Deccan Gymkhana, where they raised slogans against the ruling government as well as Maratha MLAs of all parties.
Organisers deny affiliation with anti-social elements
An elderly shopkeeper, Alka Konde-Deshmukh, who has a small shop on Fergusson College Road, had kept her shop open due to insistence of regular customers. While people thronged to her shop to buy eatables and cigarettes, two drunkards, who were posing as protesters, attacked her shop, damaging her counter and throwing around the goods. They immediately ran away after the act.
When informed about the incident, the Maratha Seva Samiti, a Maratha organisation, replied giving assurance of providing assistance to the elderly woman, while condemning the act. “We are sure that these people are not a part of our protest. We condemn such acts and if identified, we’re ready to file a complaint against them,” said Prashant Bhosale of the Maratha Kranti Morcha.