Pune: The State, especially rural Maharashtra, continued to be in the grip of the Maratha agitation, as shops remained closed, markets disrupted, stones pelted and vehicles and property were damaged by anti-social elements during the protest, which entered its third day on Thursday.
The Maratha community has been angered by the possibility of losing out on the announcement of a ‘mega recruitment’ drive by the State government for 72,000 jobs. The community has been demanding reservations under the OBC category for almost two decades. The process of verifying the social backward status of the community is currently underway, making the community wait yet more to avail reservations.
The Pune units of the Sakal Maratha Samaj, a virtual body, which coordinates the morchas, claimed that they refrained from taking strong paths of protest as they were waiting for warkaris to return home from Pandharpur, keeping the city away from the brunt of the agitation for a while.
A toll plaza at Kawadipat near Hadapsar was attempted to be forcefully closed down, but a strong police presence foiled that attempt and the Hadapsar police arrested three protesters.
A procession was taken out in Warje near the highway but was quelled and activists detained before it could get violent. The Bhim Chawa, a Dalit organisation, held demonstrations at the district collectorate in support of the Maratha reservations. The Pune Bar Association, too, came out in support of the agitation and declared that its lawyers will fight the cases of Maratha activists for free.
Rural parts of the district saw the Maratha community come out aggressively in protest. In Maval, a strict bandh was observed and the Mumbai-Pune expressway was blocked near the Urse toll plaza. The suburban city of Daund saw large-scale protests with protesters getting violent and pelting stones at government buildings and vehicles. In Sonawdi, near Daund, stones were pelted at the gram panchayat building, causing damages. Transport routes in the area saw less traffic all day.
In Marathwada, which is the centre of the current round of agitations, saw violent protests and blockades on a large scale. Roads were blocked in Aurangabad, Jalna, Osmanabad, Latur and Parbhani. Many places saw sit-in protests and protesters also shaved their heads as a sign of protest. Stones were pelted at buses and a few buses were set on fire. In Nanded, the Shivsena jumped in support of the agitations, surprising its ally in power.
In southern Maharashtra, a bus was set on fire in Mangle at Shirala in Sangli, and stones were pelted in Islampur. The Kudal tehsil office was attacked and mass protests were held in Walva, Astha and Islampur. The Maratha community in Islampur declared that it won’t let a single minister or CM enter the Taluka unless reservations are announced.
In Barshi, near Solapur, a bus going towards Pandharpur was set on fire. Many Muslim youths too participated in the protests in support of the reservation demands.
Maratha MLAs quit
The State’s 145 Maratha MLAs, which are under pressure from the community to put in resignations in protest, have been finding ways to quell the anger against them. Almost 10 MLAs offered to resign, writing a letter of resignation on their personal letterheads. But the Assembly procedural guidelines clearly state that a member might only resign using a prescribed format of resignation, which will contain no reason of resignation and only then will the letter of resignation stand valid. For now, the resignations seem to have turned out just a farce.