The ongoing silent protests by the Maratha community continued Wednesday with a march in Navi Mumbai as part of its statewide agitation seeking reservation in education and employment among other demands.
The turnout was, however, less in comparison to that in the rallies held in the state’s hinterland. The 6-kilometre march started around noon from the ISKCON temple in Kharghar and wound up at 2 pm in Belapur. The silent march led by women and girls traversed through the backlanes of Kharghar to avoid traffic hurdles on the adjacent Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Hundreds of volunteers ushered the crowd, which had come from Thane and Raigad districts.
Close to 1,000 policemen kept strict vigil on the rally, which was also being monitored by organisers with the help of a drone.
At Belapur, a young girl read out the list of demands. Subsequently, a delegation of five women and five young girls met the Konkan divisional commissioner to hand over their memorandum of demands. The seven-page memorandum sought reservation in education and employment, and amendments to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Organisers had claimed that they were expecting over 5 lakh people to participate in the rally. Police officials, however, said the number was in the region of 75,000 to 80,000. The organisers said the low turnout was because of the absence of a large Maratha population in Thane and Raigarh districts and the incessant rains lashing the region for the last few days.
“Our estimates suggest that the number was around 75,000 to 80,000. The march went off peacefully and it was ensured that no inconvenience was caused to the general public,” said Navi Mumbai DCP Crime Deepak Sawant.
Traffic on the Mumbai-Pune highway was disrupted for 15 minutes after the police stopped vehicles to allow participants of the rally to head back.