Tens of thousands of Maratha community members on voluntarily poured out on Pune’s streets and marched in unison, bringing the city to a grinding halt. All major roads in core city areas and beyond went out of bound as the Maratha community headed for Council Hall to present their memorandum of demands to the district collector.
It all began before dawn as people from different corners of Pune district started pouring into the city by which ever mode possible. The police had blocked all the major roads at quite a distance for vehicular traffic leading to Deccan area from where the “Marathi Kranti (mook) Morcha” took off at sharp 10.30 am after garlanding of the statue of Sambhaji Maharaj.
There were no speeches, no sloganeering neither the defeaning roar of loudspeakers which is so common in a city like Pune. Each one seem to shun the TV cameras as they zoomed on the “march of the millions. ”
Be it school kids, collegians, activists, professionals or the elderly, they all marched step by step, not raising a single slogan or unnecessarily exercising their vocal chords. Hundreds of them held aloft banners in bold seeking a halt to the misuse of the Atrocities Act “which has wrecked the lives” of scores of Maratha community members.
The political leaders were either not visible or got lost in the sea of humanity that held high the much-adored saffron flag — a cherished symbol Chhatrapati Shivaji era.
Just one announcer held forth and guided the morchaites. The silent march was led by school and college girls followed by women in the second group, advocates, doctors, activists and then male political leaders. The members of the Swachata Samiti tailed the morcha as they were tasked with cleaning the stretches after the morcha has moved ahead.
Among the key demands include amendment to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989, reservation for the Maratha community and death penalty for the accused in the Kopardi rape and murder case. The trigger for the “Maratha march” came from the rape and brutal murder of a 14-year-old school girl from Kopardi village in Ahemdnagar district on July 13 by three Dalit youths who have been arrested.
According to initial estimates from the morchaites, leaders of the community, volunteers and activists participating in the morcha, the crowd could be in the range of 25-50 lakh. “In Kopardi, 35 lakh people turned up…but this is much bigger than Kopardi,” said a Maratha community leaders. From Deccan to Council hall, the distance is about six km but the morcha from all sides extended to beyond 10 km which, the Maratha community leaders, said was much beyond their expectations. Ajay Bhosale of the Sambhaji Brigade said,”The Marathas have created a new history…”
Lahoo Landge, a youth, said,”The rulers should at least now take note of this unease in Maratha community…if they don’t, then the writing is on the wall for them…Pune has shown the way..”