By Prarthana Mitra
The Maharashtra bandh took place on Thursday as planned, despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ assurances to provide legally sustainable reservation to the Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions.
Agitation for the quota which culminated in a state-wide bandh began peacefully but turned violent in the afternoon.
The state government had already issued schools and colleges to be closed, fearing violent outbreaks following the vehement series of protests put up by the Maratha community in the last couple of weeks. Members of the Maratha Kranti Morcha and thousands of agitators patrolled the city yesterday, on motorbikes and foot, to ensure shops, petrol pumps, vegetable markets and even banks were shut down. Many shopkeepers in Mumbai, however, voluntarily closed their businesses to support the cause.
Here’s what happened over the day
To clamp down on rumours being spread over online messaging services, the internet was suspended in seven rural districts in and around Pune, where life came to a standstill. In Aurangabad, things took a menacing turn, as protestors burned down a police van and two private vehicles which led to lathi charge. Two factions also clashed violently as one of them raised anti-Shiv Sena slogans.
Incidents of vandalism at a district collector’s office, sit-ins and stone-pelting also occurred sporadically around the state but was brought under control by the state police. Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, joined the agitators in their demand for Maratha reservation in government jobs and education.
In Latur, protesters gheraoed Congress MLA Trimbakrao Bhise, according to police, who rushed to the scene immediately. Roads were blocked at critical junctures and NH4 and NH9 were markedly emptier. Heavy security was deployed on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and Mumbai-Goa Expressway.
Here’s why it matters
Disgruntled with the slow progress of the ordinance committee assessing the eligibility of the Marathas for reservation, the community led by Maratha Kranti Morcha staged the bandh after Jail Bharo Andolan on August 1.
Now Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has asked for time till November, but the Morcha will have none of it.
To expedite the decision on the quota, thousands from the community have participated in yesterday’s march, to introduce immediate introduction of Maratha reservation. Other major demands, include action against action against the officers responsible for firing and lathi charge during the July 25 protest, resignation or sacking of ministers and MLAs who gave irresponsible statements against Maratha community, and taking back all cases opened against the protesters. The Morcha is also agitating for a complete loan waiver, “justice” in the Kopardi rape case, and a solution to unemployment for their community.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer for Qrius.