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Is there a ‘inside’ pattern to violence by ‘outsiders’ during Maratha agitation?

Maratha outfits claimed that protest would be peaceful and yet vandalism was reported

pune Updated: Aug 11, 2018 17:12 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,violence,maratha
Thousands of protestors were seen outside the Pune district collectorate on Thursday. A huge battalion of police was deployed at the collector’s office to maintain law and order.(SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO)

Violent incidents during the bandh called by Maratha outfits in Pune and Aurangabad on Thursday bore an eerie similarity to those happened in the past fortnight, especially at Chakan and Navi Mumbai.

Maratha outfits initially claimed that protest will be peaceful and yet, incidents of vandalism were reported.

Ahead of the protests and bandhs, protestors assured the police and district administration of Pune that bandh will be peaceful.

What happened on the ground in Pune on Thursday, had clear resemblance to Chakan, Aurangabad and Navi Mumbai - the stir starts quietly, building momentum through the day and then in the afternoon, violence erupts.

“We are going through a challenging situation. On the one hand there is violence; on the other, community members are committing suicide,” said Vinod Pawar, convenor of Maratha Kranti Morcha, while denying that those involved in violence are part of the Sakal Maratha Samaj, the umbrella organisation representing Maratha outfits.

The Pune police chief K Venkatesham said police will be able to ascertain allegiance of some of those arrested only after interrogation. “We have just arrested some miscreants and their interrogation is on. Which outfits they belonged to will come out in the interrogation,” said Venkatesham.

A senior official from state intelligence department said that the series of violent incidents across the state during ongoing Maratha agitation indicate two things – first that the protest has slipped from the hands of established community members, and a section not directly associated with the protest want to escalate the situation.

“While a larger community wants a peaceful protest, there are elements not associated with the protest doesn’t want peace. This section is defying every order of their own leaders,” said the official on the condition of anonymity citing sensitiveness of the issue.

While Thursday’s bandh started on a peaceful note, it turned violent later in the day when protestors in small groups started arriving at Chandani Chowk on National Highway 4 that connects Mumbai with Bengaluru.

The protestors had also violated the code of conduct set out by outfits which was essentially about maintaining the peace at any cost.

Protestors blocked the highway and when police asked them to vacate it after three hours, the mob started pelting stones.

To control the mob, the police resorted to lathi-charge and burst tear gas shells. There was a violence at district collectorate too when protestors ransacked collector Naval Kishore Ram’s office and damaged the furniture.

In Aurangabad, protestors ransacked over 60 industries in the Waluj industrial area with incidents of arson also registered by the police.

The Aurangabad industry pegged losses during Thursday’s violence at Rs 50 crore.

Police officials said the vandals in Pune were from among the mob, but were not listening to anyone.

“It is becoming difficult to identify who are the actual Maratha protestors and non-Maratha protestors. There are chances of outsiders intruding into the protest,” said Rajendra Kondhare, general secretary, Maratha Mahasangh.

In Chakan too, when protests turned violent damaging more than 100 vehicles and causing damage worth Rs 10 crore, the convenors of Sakal Maratha Samaj said vandals were “outsiders”.

However, those arrested by Pune rural police were mostly from Khed and nearby areas.

According to remand report submitted by police while seeking 15 persons arrested in Chakan violence, police claimed that vandalism was pre-planned with protestors armed with rods and petrol cans. In Navi Mumbai, a large scale of violence was reported during the bandh in July.

Reacting to latest violence at district collectorate, Pune district collector, Naval Kishore Ram said, “I have been meeting the conveners of Maratha outfits for last two days. They had assured the administration a silent protest. Even on Thursday, I met people from the outfits and accepted their letter. However, immediately after I met the protesters, the protests took violent turns damaging few things in the premises of the collector’s office.”

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 17:11 IST