India

Maratha protesters disrupt traffic in Maharashtra over reservation demand

Maharashtra Police has stepped up security so as to maintain law and order.

Mumbai: On Thursday, Maratha agitators disrupted traffic in some parts of Maharashtra as part of their statewide protests over the reservation demand.

Protesters stopped vehicles on roads in Latur, Jalna, Solapur and Buldhana districts, as per officials. Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, has called for a ‘bandh’ across the state, except Navi Mumbai which had witnessed large-scale violence in July during protests by the community.

Amol Jadhavrao, a leader of Sakal Maratha Samaj, on Wednesday had said that they would hold a peaceful protest from 8 AM to 6 pm. However, another Maratha faction gave a call to hold a sit-in outside the Mumbai suburban district collector’s office. The authorities had ordered the closure of schools and colleges on Wednesday in some cities, including Pune, fearing violence.

Even as Maratha groups have excluded essential services from the bandh purview, the supply of vegetables was affected in some parts of the state, including Mumbai, APMC officials said. In Satara, no state transport buses were running on Thursday, all petrol pumps and vegetable markets were also closed.

The pro-reservation agitators have decided to take out a bike rally in Pune district later in the day. A pro-quota group in Latur blocked roads from midnight disrupting the vehicular movement. Similar protests were seen in Nashik, Buldhana and Solapur districts, police officials said.

The state-run public transport services have been partially suspended in Osmanabad and Buldhana districts to avoid any damage since protesters targeted buses in the previous round of agitation in July.

Prakash Abitkar, Shiv Sena MLA from Kolhapur, claimed that he had sought permission of the state Assembly Speaker to hold an agitation in the Vidhan Bhawan premises in Mumbai on Thursday to extend support to the Maratha community’s demand for reservation. Whether he was granted the permission is not clear yet.

The ‘bandh’ has been called despite chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ assurances that his government was working on providing reservation to Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions. Fadnavis had sought time till November to take steps with regard to the quota. Senior state minister Chandrakant Patil said that “nothing can be done” on their demand till November 15.

Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30% of the state’s population, have been demanding 16% reservation. Community members had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands.

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 in July.

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