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Maharashtra bandh: Maratha groups call for shutdown today over demand for 16% quota; all you need to know

Maharashtra bandh: Maratha groups call for shutdown today over demand for 16% quota; all you need to know

Maharashtra is bracing for a day-long shutdown on Thursday called by an umbrella organisation of pro-quota Maratha groups, with the authorities ordering closure of schools and colleges in some areas fearing violence. However, Navi Mumbai has been exempt from the agitation.

The All India Kisan Sabha has organised a protest from Churchgate Railway Station to Hutatma Chowk and a 'jail bharo aandolan' at 5 pm on Thursday as well. "The protest is against the BJP government's anti-labour, Dalit and tribal policies," The Indian Express quoted general secretary of Mumbai unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, PM Vartak.

Another pro-Maratha organisation, Maratha Kranti Morcha, also announced a sit-in outside the Mumbai Suburban Collector's office in Bandra (East). Nanasaheb Kute, convener of the Morcha in Mumbai said, “We have decided to hold a sit-in protest outside the office of the Mumbai Suburban Collector in Bandra (East). It will be a peaceful protest from 11 am to 2 pm with protesters wearing black badges. Then, we will hand over a letter containing our demands to the collector and leave."

Bandh called over demand for 16 percent reservation for Marathas

The bandh is being organised despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' assurances that his government was working on providing reservation to the Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, one that is legally sustainable.

Fadnavis had sought time till November to take steps with regard to the quota.

On the eve of the bandh, senior minister Chandrakant Patil said on Wednesday that "nothing can be done" about their demand till 15 November.

The state police has said it will make maximum deployment of its personnel as also the central forces requisitioned so as to maintain the law and order.

Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 percent of the state's population, have been demanding 16 percent reservation. The community members had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands, prominent among them being that of reservation.

The agitation, however, turned violent after a 27-year-old protester jumped to his death in Godavari river near Aurangabad on 23 July.

A number of places, especially Koparkhairane and Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai, had witnessed violence during the Maratha quota stir late last month.

Around 20 policemen, including eight officers, were injured in stone-pelting by protesters at Kopar Khairane and Kalamboli. A protester, injured in the violence in Navi Mumbai, had succumbed to his injuries.

According to the police, between 18 and 27 July, 276 cases of violence were registered across the state during the quota agitation. There were incidents of stone pelting at over 250 places and 198 incidents of arson, he said.

Property, including both public and private, worth more than Rs 4.5 crore was damaged within those 10 days, a police official said.

Navi Mumbai exempt from bandh

Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, on Wednesday said the bandh would be observed across Maharashtra, except Navi Mumbai, on Thursday.

"It will be a state-wide bandh, excluding Navi Mumbai. All the essential services, schools and colleges have been excluded from the bandh," Amol Jadhavrao, a leader of Sakal Maratha Samaj told reporters.

"Due to some sensitive issues, we have decided not to observe the bandh in Navi Mumbai," he said.

Bandh from 8 am to 6 pm

Jadhavrao said, "It will be a peaceful protest from 8 am to 6 pm. I appeal to my fellow Maratha youths to desist from committing suicides. It is not going to help the community and its cause."

Another Maratha faction has, however, given a call to only hold a sit-in outside the Mumbai suburban district collector's office.

Fearing violence during the bandh, Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram issued an order on Wednesday that schools and colleges will remain shut on Thursday.

A release issued by the collectorate said during the violence on 30 July in Chakan area, 70 to 80 vehicles were torched and damaged. "Two school buses were also torched in the violence and lives of students were endangered," it said.

"Even if there is no untoward incident during the protest, roads might be blocked and we don't want students to be inconvenienced and parents to be anxious unnecessarily," the collector told PTI.

Companies in Chakan MIDC area to remain shut

In view of the bandh, a majority of the commercial units in the Chakan industrial area have also decided to remain closed on Thursday.

"There are over 1,000 companies in the Chakan MIDC area and majority of them have decided keep their plants and firms shut," Chakan police station's senior inspector Santosh Girigosavi said.

The Bombay High Court had on Tuesday urged the Maratha community members to refrain from resorting to violence or committing suicide over their demand for reservation in government jobs and education.

The high court was hearing a PIL filed by the Maratha Kranti Morcha, seeking quota and directions to the backward classes commission to submit its recommendations to the state on entitlement of such quota expeditiously.

Heavy deployment of security personnel

A senior police official said the peaceful protests would be allowed but there would be a heavy deployment of security personnel, especially in sensitive pockets where violence had taken place during the agitation earlier.

The Union home ministry has provided additional security forces to the state.

"We are appealing people not to take law into their hands and not to believe any kinds of rumours," he said.

"We had demanded 15 companies. But the Centre has sent seven companies — six of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and one company of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)," the official said.

There would be videographing of protests. These videos and CCTV footage will help police identify criminals and mischief-mongers who may try to take advantage and indulge in violence, the official said.

Sakal Maratha Samaj leader Jadhavrao said, "We are also making an appeal to the Maratha youths to stay away from violence. We will not indulge in any aggressive protest and there will be no damage to public properties."

A number of people from the community had earlier committed suicide in support of the quota demand.

"We have given a call for a peaceful agitation. We have no intention to cause a contempt of court. The coordinators of Maratha morcha from Navi Mumbai can participate in the agitation in Mumbai," Jadhavrao said.

He alleged that Fadnavis was talking to only a handful of Marathas and trying to create confusion within the community.

"Fadnavis should give a time-bound programme for giving quota to the community on his letterhead and we will withdraw our agitation," Jadhavrao said.

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