Maharashtra tense after Maratha stir, but Mumbai largely unaffected

The stir was called off Wednesday late afternoon, and Mumbai city was largely unaffected. However, Navi Mumbai, Thane and other parts of the state saw violence, police retaliation till evening.

mumbai Updated: Jul 26, 2018 11:17 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra bandh,Mumbai bandh,violence in Navi Mumbai
Unruly mobs set fire to property, vehicles and even the police chowky at Koper Khairane in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday evening.(Bachchan Kumar)

A bandh called by the Maratha community on Wednesday did not throw Mumbai off gear, but suburbs such as Thane and Navi Mumbai witnessed incidents of violence even after the organisers withdrew the agitation in the afternoon.

In Thane and Navi Mumbai, at least four people were injured in incidents of arson, stone-pelting and police action. Late-evening violence in Navi Mumbai resulted in a lathicharge, and the police firing teargas shells, after protesters set fire to a police outpost in Kopar Khairane.

The protestors even attacked local residents and the police. Earlier, the Mumbai-Pune expressway near Kalamboli was blocked for hours, and protestors pelted stones at police personnel. By evening, the agitation in these areas reportedly died down.

On Wednesday, the most affected areas in the state were Navi Mumbai, Solapur, Thane, Pune rural, Palghar, Raigad, Thane rural and Satara. Approximately 500 protesters were detained on Wednesday across the state until the evening.

“The police controlled and contained the situation effectively, or else anything could have happened,” said additional director general of police (law and order) Bipin Bihari.

After the protests were withdrawn in Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis — who has been the target of the protesters —issued a statement saying the government was ready to hold talks with Maratha outfits.

“The protests in the past few days, the suicide and attempts to suicide, are extremely unfortunate,” he said.

“The state government is willing to redress any concerns or shortcomings in the schemes announced by the government for the community,” the CM said.

“Even on the issue of the mega recruitment, it is possible to address their concern through consensus.” Earlier in the day in Mumbai, the protesters tried to block arterial roads and suburban trains at different places, but their attempts were thwarted by the police. The suburban train service was disrupted on the Thane-Vashi route for hours, 25 buses damaged and scores of autos and taxis stayed off roads.

The worst hit was the Thane-Vashi Trans-harbour line of Central Railway that was suspended twice for about four and half hours, as protesters blocked the tracks at Ghansoli station in Navi Mumbai. The protesters even attempted to stop trains at Thane station and Jogeshwari station on Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) respectively during morning peak hours, but the security personnel removed them.

Barring these major incidents, the suburban services on both CR and WR were normally. Commuters said that the trains were not crowded as usual since several passengers preferred to stay indoors fearing violence. The protesters also targeted about 25 buses of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. In most places, the protesters deflated the tyres of buses. At a few locations, buses were damaged and one bus on the Santacruz-Nerul route was burnt on Mankhurd-Ghatkopar link road at around 1.30pm. The attendance in government as well as private offices in Mumbai’s business district was less than normal. Schools and colleges remained open though attendance was low.

The Maratha outfits have been demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutions for about a decade. Though the Congress-NCP government took a decision in 2014 to provide a 16% quota to Marathas, it had been struck down by the Bombay high court. Following a petition in Supreme Court, the issue of reservation has returned to HC.

The demand was revived in August 2016, in addition to implementation of the recommendations of the National Commission of Farmers and punishment to those involved in the rape and murder case of a minor girl in Kopardi village in July 2016.

However, this is the first time that the protests are becoming violent, following the suicides of two protestors.

“We suspect the violent activity is a political conspiracy against us to derail the issue. In the last two years, we have held 58 silent marches and now we notice the violence,” said Virendra Pawar, member, coordination committee, Maratha Kranti Morcha, the umbrella body of the protesters. “For years, only political bandhs have achieved success but this has proved that caste-based outfits can also come on streets for their genuine demands.” Until Wednesday, the state police registered 129 cases pertaining to violence, arson, stone-pelting, causing hurt to policemen, rioting and damaging public property.

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 09:44 IST