Following the massive protest in Kolhapur on Saturday, lakhs of Marathas in Thane and Palghar held a silent protest in Thane on Sunday. Members of the Sikh and Muslim communities supported the march by serving the protestors water and cold drinks.
Organisers said more than five to ten lakh people joined silent protest. However, the actual figure has not been verified.Residents aged two to eighty years joined the march.
The state had announced several schemes for helping Marathas gain admission to professional courses, hoping to ease tension among the community. However, the community refused to compromise on their prime demands, including reservation for the community, justice for the Kopardi rape victim and amendments to the Atrocity Act.
The protest began from six different routes, including Teen Hath Naka, Nitin Company, Cadbury Junction, Majiwada, Saket Complex and Thane College. Residents of Thane, Kalyan, Palghar, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath, Mira Road and Navi Mumbai participated.
The city witnessed crowds of saffron-clad protestors.
The women-led protest was organised in a disciplined manner. A cleanliness crew ensured that protestors did not litter the city with bottles or paper bags. The protesters were addressed occasionally through stages and screens set up at various locations. College students were active participants.
Muslim women joined the rally. The Mali Samaj from Rajasthan too participated, saying the Marathas deserved reservation, as they had been fighting for it for years.
Roads at Kalwa, Hari Niwas Circle, Masunda Lake, Court Naka and Teen Hath Naka were blocked due to the sea of people.However, traffic flowed smoothly as flyovers and bridges were open, while the protesters occupied the road and service roads below. Several internal roads were closed, however, as it was a Sunday, not many commuters were affected.
All the local representatives from Thane, including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Jitendra Awhad, Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, public works department minister Eknath Shinde, MP Rajan Vichare, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator and standing committee chairman Sanjay Waghule were present. However. they were not allowed to take the stage, neither were they given preferential treatment by the organisers.
The protest ended with a schoolgirl handing over the demands of the community to the collector.
“I have come here with my family to show solidarity with our community. I believe that reservation should be made for the financially weaker section. I believe it is important to unite with our community as they for fighting for a cause,” said Neelam Sawant, 51, a Mulund resident.
“I am here to support the cause of Maratha reservations and justice for the Kopardi victim. I have completed my education on merit, however there are many deserving people who aren’t as lucky,” said Dr. Prajakta Patil, 28, a Ghodbunder Road resident.
“Most communities have the advantage of reservation. We should also have it for our community. My family and I are here to support reservation,” said Tanvi Bhosale, 20, a Raghunath Nagar, Thane resident.
“In school, we learn that all human beings are equal. We learn not to differentiate based on caste. However, once we enter college, we realised even 80% marks are not enough if we do not belong to open category. Thus I support reservation for my community and have joined the protest,” said Jitendra Chavan, 30, a Kalyan resident.