The 58th and the last “mook morcha”, or silent march, by the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which will be held in Mumbai on Wednesday, would be the ‘biggest ever’ such rally, with about 70 lakh people expected to participate from across Maharashtra, claimed leaders behind the movement.
Maratha leaders also warned that this was going to be the “last silent morcha”. They said that unless the state government acted decisively on their demands, they would move on to an “aggressive agitation”, which would include measures such as preventing ministers from visiting their constituencies and holding demonstrations before Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, they said.
In Mumbai, the march will begin from the Byculla Zoo and culminate at Azad Maidan, where Fadnavis is expected to receive a memorandum of demands from the Maratha leaders. “We expect between 70 lakh to one crore people from across Maharashtra to participate in the march. The Mumbai march is certainly going to be the biggest one among all the 58 marches at various districts and talukas,” said Ajay Bhosale, a Maratha leader from Pune. Shantaram Kunjir, another leader, cautioned that their patience was “running thin”.
“We expected the government to concede to some of our key demands. The government has neither acted decisively nor has it shown any intention of doing so. If it remains as passive as it has been, we will be forced to launch an aggressive agitation,” he said. Kunjir said that for almost a year, the Maratha community had been holding “silent, disciplined and peaceful morchas, but they seemed to have had little effect on the state government”.
“Now, our patience is running thin. We can no longer remain silent. If, after the 58th morcha, the government still refuses to act, we will be forced to launch an aggressive agitation. It would include mobbing ministers, preventing them from visiting their constituencies, holding demonstrations before the Chief Minister and so on,” he said, adding that there could also be other forms of “aggressive agitation, details of which won’t be revealed now.”
The Maratha leaders said they would wait for at least two weeks or so after the 58th march “for the government to take some kind of action on their demands”. “If there is no action, then the coordination committee will meet and decide about the way we are going to carry out our aggressive agitation,” said Kunjir. The Maratha leaders said there would be no need to intensify the agitation if the government did act on their demands.
Rubbishing allegations that the Maratha community was “feeling uneasy” as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was not from their community, Kunjir said, “All this talk has no meaning. We look up to Fadnavis as the chief minister of Maharashtra, and not as someone who belongs to any particular community. If he accepts or acts on our demands, we will certainly praise him… the chief minister is supposed to heed the voice of the people.”
One of the key demands of the Maratha community is capital punishment for the culprits in the Kopardi rape and murder case. It was the Kopardi incident — the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in July last year — that triggered protests by the Maratha community across the state.
The community’s other demands include reservation in government-run and aided educational institutions, as well as government jobs, amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and minimum support price for farmers.
Maratha leaders insisted that they were not demanding that the Atrocity Act be scrapped, but said they wanted it to be amended as they felt that it was “being misused, causing unnecessary hardship to the majority community”.
On the loan waiver for farmers announced by the state government, the Maratha leaders said they had not yet benefited form it, as they were busy filling up the “complicated form”. Bhosale claimed that the march would witness the “biggest ever” gathering of people in pursuit of their demands in Maharashtra. On Wednesday morning, thousands of people are expected to leave from Pune and head to Mumbai, via the Expressway, to participate in the march. Police have already appealed to Puneites to avoid using the Expressway tomorrow.
The office of the Additional Director General of Police (Traffic) for Maharashtra has issued a notification, saying heavy vehicles will not allowed to ply beyond a certain point on the Pune-Mumbai Old Highway and Pune-Mumbai Expressway, between 7 am and 7 pm on Wednesday. The notification states that the heavy vehicles plying on Expressway at Urse Toll Booth and on the Old Highway will be stopped at Kusgaon toll plaza, and will not be allowed to ply towards Mumbai. The rule will not be applicable to service vehicles, ambulances, fire brigade vehicles, police and
government vehicles, stated the notification.