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Maratha groups call off Mumbai bandh after violence, but protesters in Navi Mumbai and Thane adamant

Maratha leaders in Navi Mumbai also expressed willingness to withdraw the agitation, but were met with resistance from protesters on the ground.

india Updated: Jul 25, 2018 20:02 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
maratha protest,maratha kranti morcha,Maratha quota stir
Maratha Kranti Morcha block the traffic during their statewide bandh called for reservations in jobs and education, at Kopar Khairane, Navi Mumbai.(PTI Photo)

Maratha leaders called off their Mumbai shutdown on Wednesday afternoon and asked protesters in other parts of the state to follow suit. But agitators in Thane and Navi Mumbai said they won’t withdraw stir.

The move to call off the agitation was taken after several violent incidents erupted in Mumbai as well as surrounding areas, including the burning of a BEST bus on the Ghatkopar Mankhurd Road and an agitation against mediapersons in Kalamboli that forced the police to fire in the air and launch a lathi-charge. Four to five people were also reported injured in mob violence.

Maratha leaders in Navi Mumbai and Thane also expressed willingness to withdraw the agitation, but were met with resistance from protesters on the ground. Discussions are on to resolve the situation.

Protestors at Navi Mumbai’s Kalamboli eway entry point said they will not withdraw agitation till chief minister or any other government representative meets them and accepts their demands.

Meanwhile, the Sion Panvel highway remained blocked as agitators continued to pour in large numbers.

Maratha Kranti Morcha coordination committee member Virendra Pawar said the agitation had turned out to be a grand success. “We showed everyone that caste-based outfits can bring the city to a halt just as well as political parties,” he asserted.

He, however, denied that any member of his group had gone on the rampage. “We suspect some political cospiracy to tarnish our image. We peacefully held 58 silent morchas without causing any violence,” Pawar said, adding that they will probe the issue.

The Maratha leader held the state government responsible for the bandh. “We sought our due from the government for two whole years, but received nothing. This is what pushed our youngsters to do this,” he claimed.

The bandh had started off on a peaceful note that morning, but grew in intensityas the day wore on. A few instances of buses and trains being halted in Thane; rail blockades in Jogeshwari and Kalyan; stoppage of traffic at the Mulund Check Naka; and stone pelting at Ghansoli were reported earlier in the day. Reports also emerged of Maratha activists forcing commercial establishments to down shutters in Lalbaug.

Maratha Kranti Morcha activists stop a school bus during their statewide bandh, called for reservations in jobs and education, at Kopar Khairane, Navi Mumbai. (PTI Photo)

Protestors disrupted railway services on the central and western lines for a while, before police stepped in. Although 30 protesters blocked rail tracks at Jogeshwari station on the western line around 9.15 am, services resumed after the lines were cleared at 9.24 am.

A group of about 60 protesters waylaid trains at the Thane railway station from 10.12 am to 10.30 am. A similar agitation was taken up by 25 Maratha activists at the Ghansoli railway station, which resulted in the halting of trans-harbour local train services. Last heard, all the three railway routes were operational.

Road blockades were also reported from Shivaji Chowk in Kalyan and Mulund Check Naka, resulting in some traffic congestion. Many auto rickshaws kept off the streets in view of the bandh. “It couldn’t be helped. Drivers feared that their vehicles would be vandalised,” said Shashank Rao, leader of the Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union. There were reports of agitators warning auto rickshaw drivers against venturing out in Lokhandwala and Kandivli areas. This led to a surge in the prices of app-based Uber and Ola cab agencies.

Read: Here’s why Marathas protest for reservation time and again

Protesters also staged a ‘rasta-roko’ at Panvel, blocking the Old Mumbai-Pune road and the Mumbai-Goa road in the process. Around four incidents of buses being pelted with stones (in Ghansoli and Kopar Khairane) and six of BEST bus tyres (in Kurla, Chandivali, Andheri and Kandivali) being deflated were reported through the course of the morning. However, BEST spokesperson Hanumant Gophane said the bus services were otherwise unaffected.

The day-long shutdown, called by Maratha outfits under the banner of the Sakal Maratha Samaj and Maratha Kranti Morcha to press for reservations in jobs and education, extended over Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar. The agitation was more severe in Navi Mumbai than Mumbai or Thane, considering that the community has dominant pockets in the satellite city. Railway authorities had already beefed up security at various stations across the city, knowing that protesters would try to block the tracks. Over 30,000 police personnel were deployed across the region to ensure that the common man was not affected.

However, organisers of the agitation assured that it would not go out of hand. “The bandh will be observed peacefully. We do not intend to cause any inconvenience to the people. The protests and road-blockades will only be representational, meant to attract attention to our demands,” said Bipin Vichare, who led the bandh in Bhandup.

The decision to call the bandh was taken at a meeting of Maratha organisations at Shivaji Mandir in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon.

First Published: Jul 25, 2018 08:49 IST