After a break, the protests of the Maratha community demanding justice to a rape and murder victim in an incident in Ahmednagar as well as reservation for the Marathas in government jobs and education, will resume on Wednesday. The Maratha groups have planned to organise a massive protest march in Nagpur, the second capital of Maharashtra where currently the winter session of the State Legislature is in progress. The silent protest march will start around 11 am.
Over five lakh Maratha community members from across the state, especially from Vidarbha region, are likely to participate in the peaceful march. Significantly, more than 150 Maratha legislators from all political parties are likely to participate in the protests on Wednesday.
The march will start from Yashwant Stadium in the city and will conclude at T-point near the State Legislature.
The Maratha protests were on the back-burner for quite some time after demonetisation and first phase of civic polls. The organisers are hoping to regain the momentum ahead of the final massive protests they have planned in state capital Mumbai.
Nagpur, otherwise a peaceful city, has turned into a police fortress since the session of the Legislature has begun and the police have increased deployment in view of the Maratha protests too. Nagpur police have taken elaborate security measures including monitoring the march through video cameras.
The Maratha protests have political significance. Maratha, a politically influential community, has been traditionally supporting the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party though it did vote for BJP and Shiv Sena in 2014 elections. However, attempts are being made by certain sections within the community to point out that it is no more a ruling community now unlike during the previous regimes when Marathas occupied chief ministership and prominent positions in power.
The decision of the previous Congress-NCP government to provide 16% reservation in government jobs and education to Marathas was put on hold by the Bombay High Court. The blame-game is on between the ruling and opposition parties over the responsibility of the same. The state BJP is wary that it could be painted anti-Maratha by the opposition parties and some Maratha community groups. The BJP could suffer political setback if the community goes against it. Elections to major civic bodies and district councils are due in next couple of months. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis camp is also aware of the fact that the BJP leadership changed the chief minister in neighbouring Gujarat following failure of the state government to handle massive protests by Patel community. Anandiben Patel was replaced by Vijay Rupani.