Marathwada tension over Maratha reservations continues
Tension escalates in Maharashtra as Maratha outfits declare a bandh to protest against lathi charge on activists demanding reservations for the community. Shops closed, vehicles torched, and highways blocked. Police deployed to control the situation. Both CM Shinde and Deputy CM Fadnavis appeal for peace. The Maratha reservation was quashed by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Mumbai: Tension escalated in the central Maharashtra region after a bandh was declared by Maratha outfits to protest against the Friday lathi charge on activists demanding reservations for the Maratha community. Shops were shut while a few public transport buses and vehicles were torched by miscreants.
The incidents of stone-pelting and torching of vehicles began on Friday night and continued on Saturday at several places including Jalna, Beed, Aurangabad and Dhule. The protesters also blocked the Dhule-Solapur highway and set several government buses on fire.
The bandh has been declared in Jalna, Nandurbar, Beed, Osmanabad, Hingoli, Parbhani and Latur districts to condemn the police action. Agitations were also held in Thane, Solapur, Hingoli, Nagpur and Yavatmal. In Beed, the police had to resort to a mild lathi charge when stones were pelted on shops and establishments for continuing their businesses during the bandh.
Police personnel and a company of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed at Antarvali-Sarati village in Jalna, where the trouble began, to bring the situation under control if required, said police officials. Meanwhile, coordinators of the Sakal Maratha Samaj, the umbrella organisation of the community, will hold meetings in Mumbai, Nashik and Kolhapur to decide their next course of action.
The lathi charge on Friday took place in Antarvali-Sarati, where a group of Maratha activists led by one Manoj Jarange-Patil were on a hunger strike for four days. The police said when they tried to move Patil to a hospital, the mob around him began indulging in violence, leading to a police crackdown. However, Patil and his supporters continued the protest on Saturday even after the police action.
Around 40 police personnel and some other persons were injured in the Friday violence. An FIR has been registered at Gondi police station in Jalna against 18 agitators, who have been identified, and some 350 unknown people for the violence.
“They have been booked under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) among others,” said a police official. Tushar Doshi, Superintendent of Police (SP), Jalna, said that no arrests had been made so far and the situation was under control.
Both CM Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis have appealed to the people to maintain peace, and also told political parties not to take advantage of the situation. “A committee under the chief minister is looking into ways to restore the reservation given to Marathas, which was set aside by the Supreme Court,” Fadnavis said.
On Friday, Fadnavis said that the police were forced to lathi-charge the crowd because of the stone-pelting. This was refuted by Jarange-Patil. “We were in a discussion with officials who had requested us to withdraw the hunger strike,” he said. After some time, a large group of policemen wearing helmets gathered around the site. Soon men and women were brutally assaulted by them. Bullets were also fired by the police,” he claimed. “Are we Pakistanis or are we in any way connected to them? Why did they fire bullets? We will not stop until we get reservation; let CM Shinde fire bullets or explode bombs.”
Meanwhile, Mangesh Sable, sarpanch from Phulambri village in Aurangabad, torched his own vehicle to protest against the police action. “This is a warning to Devendra Fadnavis (home minister) that if our blood is spilled, then there will be a Maratha upsurge,” he said.
In a meeting held in Mumbai, the Maratha outfits have decided to hold a protest outside Plaza Cinema in Dadar on Sunday while in Aurangabad, they have declared to hold a bandh on Monday.
The Supreme Court has quashed the Maratha reservation given by the Maharashtra government and also dismissed a review petition in April this year. On April 22, 2023, the state government announced that it would file a curative petition in the apex court. It has also constituted a new commission to study the backwardness of the community to make a case for the quota.