Thousands of people demanding reservations for the Maratha community marched from Jijamata Udyan in Byculla till Azad Maidan on Wednesday. Mumbai briefly turned into a sea of saffron as protesters walked down south Mumbai’s JJ flyover. Traffic movement was disrupted in several areas of south Mumbai despite the presence of hundreds of policemen personnel.
Protesters pulled down banners put up by the Shiv Sena as they did not want any “political interference”. Rajya Sabha member Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, who was part of the march, told reporters that he was participating as an “ordinary member” of the Maratha community.
Bollywood actor Ritersh Deshmukh also extended his support to the march last night. “Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha,” he tweeted in Marathi.
The protest was organised by the Maratha Kranti Morcha, who had taken out 57 silent protest marches last year. This was, however, the biggest silent protest march so far.
On a day the Mahrashtra Assembly was in session, a delegation from the Maratha morcha met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at the Vidhan Bhawan. After the meeting, Fadnavis said his government is committed towards granting reservation to the Maratha community. He asked the Maharashtra Backward Commission to submit a detailed report on the issue as it would expedite the reservation demand in court.
On the gangrape and murder of a Maratha girl in Kopardi village, Fadnavis said the trial is being fast-tracked and the government is pushing for the highest punishment for the perpetrators. Some residents of Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district were also part of today’s morcha.
Later on, speaking in the Maharashtra Assembly, Fadnavis awarded land and granted Rs 5 crore to build hostels for students from Maratha community in every district.
At the Azad Maidan, a morcha participant — dressed like Chhatrapati Shivaji — was heard extolling the virtues of a “government of the people and for the people”, as practised by the Maratha king.
Ishanvi Deshmukh, a three-year-old girl, impressed the gathering with a well-memorised speech seeking reservations for the Maratha community. Some residents of Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district, where the brutal rape and murder in July 2016 of a 14-year-old girl belonging to the community triggered massive protests across the state, also participated in today’s morcha.
Also present at the venue was Manohar Anandrao Patil from Latur district, who said he had participated in all the 58 Maratha morchas till date. The first protest was held in Aurangabad on August 9 last year.
Another protester came to the venue in the attire of a farmer in distress, with a noose dangling from his neck. “This is an attempt to draw the government’s attention to the plight of farmers,” he said.
All parking areas in Navi Mumbai were full as morcha participants coming from across Maharashtra parked their vehicles on vacant lots.
The protesters have been demanding reservation in jobs and educational institutions for members of the Maratha community, punishment for culprits in the Kopardi case and loan waivers for farmers.
With PTI inputs