Despite Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s assurances that his government was working on providing reservation to the Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, an umbrella organisation of pro-quota Maratha groups has called for a day-long shutdown on Thursday.
However, Navi Mumbai has been exempted from this bandh. Fearing violence, the authorities have ordered closure of schools and colleges in some areas.
Maharashtra CM Fadnavis had sought time till November from Maratha groups to take steps with regard to the quota.
On the eve of the bandh, senior minister Chandrakant Patil said today that “nothing can be done” on their demand till November 15.
The state police has said it will make maximum deployment of its personnel as also the central forces requisitioned so as to maintain the law and order. Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, have been demanding 16 per cent reservation.
The community members had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands, prominent among them being that of reservation. The agitation, however, turned violent after a 27-year-old protester jumped to his death in Godavari river near Aurangabad on July 23.
A number of places, especially Koparkhairane and Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai, had witnessed violence during the Maratha quota stir late last month.
Around 20 policemen, including eight officers, were injured in stone-pelting by protesters at Kopar Khairane and Kalamboli. A protester, injured in the violence in Navi Mumbai, had succumbed to his injuries.
According to the police, between July 18 and 27, 276 cases of violence were registered across the state during the quota agitation. There were incidents of stone pelting at over 250 places and 198 incidents of arson, he said. Property, including both public and private, worth more than Rs 4.5 crore was damaged within those 10 days, a police official said.
Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, today said the ‘bandh’ would be observed across Maharashtra, except Navi Mumbai, tomorrow.
“It will be a state-wide bandh, excluding Navi Mumbai. All the essential services, schools and colleges have been excluded from the bandh,” Amol Jadhavrao, a leader of Sakal Maratha Samaj told reporters.
“Due to some sensitive issues, we have decided not to observe bandh in Navi Mumbai,” he said. Jadhavrao said, “It will be a peaceful protest from 8 am to 6 pm. I appeal to my fellow Maratha youths to desist from committing suicides. It is not going to help the community and its cause.”
Another Maratha faction has, however, given a call to only hold a sit-in outside the Mumbai suburban district collector’s office.
Fearing violence during the bandh, Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram issued an order today that schools and colleges will remain shut domorrow. A release issued by the collectorate said during the violence on July 30 in Chakan area, 70 to 80 vehicles were torched and damaged.
“Two school buses were also torched in the violence and lives of students were endangered,” it said. “Even if there is no untoward incident during the protest, roads might be blocked and we don’t want students to be inconvenienced and parents to be anxious unnecessarily,” the collector told PTI.
In view of the bandh, a majority of the commercial units in the Chakan industrial area have also decided to remain closed tomorrow.
“There are over 1,000 companies in the Chakan MIDC area and majority of them have decided keep their plants and firms shut,” Chakan police station’s senior inspector Santosh Girigosavi said.
The Bombay High Court had yesterday urged the Maratha community members to refrain from resorting to violence or committing suicide over their demand for reservation in government jobs and education.
The HC was hearing a PIL filed by the Maratha Kranti Morcha, seeking quota and directions to the backward classes commission to submit its recommendations to the state on entitlement of such quota expeditiously. A senior police official said the peaceful protests would be allowed but there would be a heavy deployment of security personnel, especially in sensitive pockets where violence had taken place during the agitation earlier. The Union Home Ministry has provided additional security forces to the state.
“We are appealing people not to take law into their hands and not to believe any kinds of rumours,” he said. “We had demanded 15 companies. But the Centre has sent seven companies—six of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and one company of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF),” the official said.
There would be videographing of protests. These videos and CCTV footage will help police identify criminals and mischief-mongers who may try to take advantage and indulge in violence, the official said.
Sakal Maratha Samaj leader Jadhavrao said, “We are also making an appeal to the Maratha youths to stay away from violence. We will not indulge in any aggressive protest and there will be no damage to public properties.” A number of people from the community had earlier committed suicide in support of the quota demand.
“We have given a call for a peaceful agitation. We have no intention to cause a contempt of court. The coordinators of Maratha morcha from Navi Mumbai can participate in the agitation in Mumbai,” Jadhavrao said. He alleged that Fadnavis was talking to only a handful of Marathas and trying to create confusion within the community.
“Fadnavis should give a time-bound programme for giving quota to the community on his letterhead and we will withdraw our agitation,” Jadhavrao said.
with PTI inputs