AS THE agitation for caste-based reservations by members of Maratha community escalated in parts of Maharashtra on Tuesday, a police constable died of heart attack while on mob control duty and two Maratha youths attempted suicide in Aurangabad district.
Meanwhile, leaders of Maratha Kranti Morcha said a bandh would be observed in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Palghar on Wednesday. No bandh call has been made for Pune, which was also exempt from the statewide bandh Tuesday. The Morcha also gave Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis an ultimatum to sit for talks within two days or face more virulent protests.
A bandh call for Aurangabad and other parts of Maharashtra on Tuesday led to violence in various places. With 169 state transport buses damaged over the past four days in stone pelting by protesters, bus services were suspended on the Ahmednagar- Aurangabad route. Aurangabad city in Marathwada region also witnessed suspension of Internet through Tuesday as a precautionary measure.
In Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Palghar, Maratha groups will observe a “peaceful” bandh on Wednesday. Agitators are likely to enforce closure of shops and force public transport buses, taxis and other vehicles off the main roads.
However, the suburban railway will not be affected and schools and colleges will be allowed to function as usual. “A decision has been taken to observe a bandh tomorrow in Mumbai Metropolitan Region. There will be no violence. We have excluded schools and colleges and all other emergency services from the bandh,” said Nanasaheb Kute, convener of Maratha Kranti Morcha in Mumbai. Maratha leaders in the city also demanded the CM’s resignation.
On Tuesday morning, police constable Sham Padgaonkar from Osmanabad district, who was on mob control duty in Kaygaon village of Aurangabad, died of a heart attack. He was on duty at the site of the funeral of Kakasaheb Dattatraya Shinde (28), who jumped into the Godavari in an act of ‘jal samadhi’ Monday and drowned. The Maratha protests, which had begun on July 18, escalated following Shinde’s death.
Agitators manhandled Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire and Congress MLA Subhash Jambad when they came to attend Shinde’s funeral, forcing both to leave.
Shinde’s family has blamed the government for his death. “My brother is a martyr. The Chief Minister should take responsibility of his death and resign. We also want action against the police and government officials who did not take preventive action even after knowing that the Jal Samadhi agitation was scheduled to take place on Monday,” said Avinash Shinde.
The state government has sent local tehsildar Chandrakant Shelke and inspector Sunil Birla of Gangapur police on compulsory leave. Meanwhile, a case of accidental death has been lodged at Gangapur police station in connection with Shinde’s death.
Meanwhile, Jayendra Sonawane (27) attempted suicide by jumping into a dry riverbed at Deogaon Rangari village in Aurangabad’s Kannad taluka. Jagannath Sonawane (45), from the same village, consumed poison. While Jayendra suffered multiple fractures, Jagannath is at hospital in a critical condition, said district officials.
Gayake, a convener of the Morcha in Aurangabad, said the bandh in the district will continue indefinitely. Internet services were suspended in Aurangabad on Tuesday. Police said this would continue on Wednesday.
On July 19, in the state Assembly in Nagpur, when Opposition leaders had raised the issue of reservation for Marathas as part of a scheduled recruitment drive for 72,000 government jobs, Fadnavis had promised that the government would keep 16 per cent posts reserved for the community.