A day after leaders of the Maratha Kranti Morcha announced a sit-in protest outside the office of the Mumbai Suburban Collector in Bandra (East) on August 9, another group of Maratha leaders on Wednesday announced a bandh in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Thursday. However, there will be no bandh or any protest in Navi Mumbai and Thane.
“The state-level committee decided in Aurangabad today to observe the bandh on Thursday across the state except Navi Mumbai and Thane. The bandh will be completely peaceful and there will be no violence. Public or private properties won’t be damaged during the bandh. We will fully cooperate with the police authorities,” said Amol Jadhavrao, convener of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, while addressing the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Muslim organisations such as the Maharashtra Muslim Ekta Parishad and Jamait Ulama-i-Maharashtra have extended support to the bandh. Jadhavrao said the bandh would be observed from 8 am to 6 pm. “But we have excluded all the essential services such as medical, schools and colleges, milk and public transport from the bandh. We will request shops and commercial establishments to remain shut and will request autorickshaws and taxis to stay off the roads,” he added.
On Tuesday, a group of Maratha Kranti Morcha leaders had announced that a sit-in protest would be held outside the office of the Mumbai Suburban Collector in Bandra (East) on Thursday from 11 am to 2 pm. The leaders had maintained that there would be no bandh in Mumbai on Thursday as they don’t want to inconvenience the citizens.
When asked about divisions in the Maratha Kranti Morcha, both the camps blamed each other for changing their decision after Wednesday’s meeting. “We don’t oppose them for the sit-in protest as they are also fighting for the community’s issues. So, the bandh will be observed in areas dominated by the Maratha community like Byculla, Dadar, Ghatkopar, Bhandup and Kandivali with some others,” said Jadhavrao.
However, Nanasaheb Kute, another convener of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said the sit-in protest would be held outside the Collector’s office in Bandra (East) as planned. “There is no change in our plan. Besides, those who won’t be able to come at the protest site can go to work with black badges,” said Kute. “The Maratha Kranti Morcha is a headless body. There is no hierarchy in it and the all the members of the Morcha are conveners. So, some of them might think that their decision is right and may go for it.”
Kedar Suryawanshi, another leader of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said our major demand is that all the cases registered against the Maratha youth in violence during July 25 should be withdrawn. “The chief minister has promised about Maratha reservation also. But, we want the assurances in writing with a timebound program for fulfilling it,” said Suryawanshi. While there is no bandh in Thane, local Maratha leaders have decided to hold prayer meetings to offer condolences to the Maratha youths who committed suicides in past two weeks. “The prayer meetings will be held at six places. There will be no protest or bandh in Thane,” said Santosh Suryarao, convener of Maratha Kranti Morcha in Thane.
The violence that took place across the state during last month’s bandh called by the organisers has been a cause for concern among the leaders. Considering the violence happened in Navi Mumbai, it has been decided not to hold any bandh or protest on Thursday, said Narendra Patil, NCP legislator.
Another leader said that the first mook morcha (silent protest) of the total 58 silent protest across the state was held on August 09, 2016 in Aurangabad. So, the protests would be held at the district level across the state to mark the second anniversary of the first silent protest, he added.
Meanwhile, state Chief Secretary Dineshkumar Jain took a review of the law and order situation in view of the bandh called by the Maratha community. Officials from the police, traffic and railway authorities were present for the meeting. “Proper police bandobast should be done to maintain law and order situation across the state. Besides, efforts should be made to ensure that public transport remains functional and schools and colleges are able to conduct the scheduled exams,” said Jain.
In Thane, police are expecting protests across five different areas in Badlapur, Kalyan, Dombivali and Ambernath, sources said. “We have pulled all of our men from the headqaurters. We have called for two teams of reserved forces. We have been having meetings, regularly, with the people in our area. So, we are sure that tomorrow, with the help of the agitators and their leaders, will pass uneventfully. We will be on alert, through the day,” Thane Commissioner of Police Vivek Phansalkar said.
To avoid friction, the Thane police are also ensuring that the arrested miscreants from the last protest not be allowed to protest again. “Part of their bail condition was to not be involved in such protests again. We have spoken to them and their families and explained to them how it is detrimental if they wreak havoc or take law and order in their hands. So, most of them are not expected to be a part of the protest,” Phansalkar said.
In Navi Mumbai, close to 2,000 men, including Navi Mumbai police, Rapid Action Force and other agencies, have been deployed. “We have been told that the bandh has been called off. However, one small group wants to take out a morcha, and lodge their protest. We are ready for all situations, and are on alert. To ensure that the situation of the last protest don’t repeat itself, we have had extensive meetings with the stakeholders and have reached out to each and everyone of them,” said Navi Mumbai police commissioner Sanjeev Kumar.
Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sabha has organised a protest from Churchage railway station to Hutatma chowk and jail bharo aandolan on Thursday at 5 pm. “The protest is against the BJP government’s anti-labour, Dalit, tribals policies,” said P M Vartak, general secretary of Mumbai unit of Centre of Indian Trade Unions.