Over two lakh people from across Maharashtra joined a protest march in Mumbai on Wednesday seeking reservations in jobs and education for the Maratha community.
This is the 58th – and the largest – protest march of the Maratha community, exactly a year after the first march was held in Aurangabad, the organisers told reporters here.
Young people and senior citizens of the Maratha community waved saffron flags in a protest that the police said was free of incidents of violence, with more than 10,000 policemen on guard, reported news agency Reuters.
Traffic came to a halt in many parts of the business district, while protesters jammed suburban trains.
One protester, Pradip Munde, a farmer from Osmanabad, said, “Farming is no longer profitable and jobs are not available. Reservation can ensure us better education and jobs.”
So far, 57 protests, in the form of ‘mook morcha’ (silent rallies), have been held in various parts of the state following the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old Maratha girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district in July 2016.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter have been used to spread the morcha message to community members, reported PTI. The JJ flyover has been closed for traffic today in view of the morcha, police said.
Schools in south Mumbai are closed today as a precautionary measure, an official said.
The silent protest is a peaceful way to press demand for reservation in jobs and educational institutions and punishment for culprits in the Kopardi case, the organisers said. Their other demands include Amendment in SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) to stop its misuse, loan waiver to curb farmer suicides, and remunerative prices for agricultural produce.
The morcha has been organised by the Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella organisation of several Maratha groups. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had said it planned to use the Bombay Gymkhana ground adjacent to the Azad Maidan, to handle the large number of people expected to participate in tomorrow’s morcha, an official said.
BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta and Commissioner of Police Datta Padsalgikar had met last week to discuss preparations and necessary arrangements from a security point of view, he said.