Maratha reservation: Bandh declared, vehicles set ablaze as protest turns violent
On Saturday afternoon, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar reached Jalna to meet the villagers who were injured in police lathi- charge and are recuperating at Ambad Government Hospital
Tension prevailed in the central Maharashtra region as a Bandh (shutdown) was organised by the Maratha outfits in protest of lathi charge on activists demanding reservations for the Maratha community after instances of stone pelting.
Enraged by the incident, Maratha protesters have called for a bandh in seven districts across the state, intensifying the unrest. Shops were closed in the district while public transport buses and vehicles were torched by the angry mob.
A protest demanding reservation for the Maratha community was organised in the Jalna district. However, it took a violent turn on Friday as police resorted to lathi charge and fired tear gas resulting in injuries to over 50 individuals, including police personnel.
The incidents of stone pelting and torching of vehicles began Friday night and continued on Saturday at several places including in Jalna, Beed, Aurangabad and Dhule. The protesters also blocked the Dhule-Solapur highway and set several government buses on fire, police said.
Meanwhile, a Bandh has been declared in Jalna, Nandurbar, Beed, Osmanabad, Hingoli, Parbhani and Latur districts to condemn the police brutality. Along with these districts, agitations were also held in Thane, Solapur, Nagpur and Yavatmal.
The coordinators from the Sakal Maratha Samaj, the umbrella organisation of the community, are going to hold meetings in Mumbai, Nashik and Kolhapur to decide their next course of action, said the people familiar with the matter.
The lathi charge on Friday took place in Antarvali-Sarati village in Jalna where a group of Maratha activists, led by one Manoj Jarange-Patil, were sitting on a strike for four days with their demand. Patil and his supporters continued the protest even on Saturday even after police action.
The matter immediately took a political turn as the opposition slammed the ruling alliance government in the state, and chief minister Eknath Shinde ordered a probe.
The chief minister Eknath Shinde-led government government has come under fire from the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) dispensation over the incident.
On Saturday afternoon, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar reached Jalna to meet the villagers who were injured in police lathi- charge and are recuperating at Ambad Government Hospital.
Pawar was accompanied by state NCP chief Jayant Patil, and legislators – Rajesh Tope, and Sandeep Kshirsagar, among others. Later, he also went to meet the protesters at Antarvali-Sarati village and extended his support while condemning the police action.
“We will continue to protest for the Maratha reservation but in a peaceful way,” the veteran leader said in his address.
Shiv Sena (UBT) Uddhav Thackeray is also expected to meet the protestors and the injured at the hospital in the evening.
Meanwhile, CM has announced a probe into the incident. CM Shinde has spoken to the Jalna collector and other senior police officers and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
The police on Saturday registered a first information report naming 18 known and 350 unknown people for rioting and attacking police. Sensing the anger in the community, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the police action was excessive and appealed for peaceful agitation.
Mangesh Sable, a 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 spilt then there will be an outbreak of Marathas.”
On Saturday, NCP MLA Rohit Pawar also met Jarange Patil’s family and raised suspicions that the crackdown aimed to quash dissent to pave the way for the upcoming ‘Shasan Aplya Dari’ program, scheduled for September 8 in Jalna to be attended by the chief minister Eknath Shinde and his two deputies — Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar.
Both Shinde and Fadnavis appealed to the people to maintain peace and also told the political parties not to take political 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.
Notably, the Maratha community were allocated quotas in the fields of education and government jobs as per the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act of 2018.
However, in 2021, the Supreme Court struck down the order which grants reservations to the Maratha community for violating the 50% limit on reservations and the 102nd Amendment of the Constitution.