Mumbai bandh over Maratha quota called off after stir escalates

MUMBAI: Maratha Kranti Morcha called off their shutdown call on Wednesday afternoon after violence over reservation spilled on to Mumbai streets, forcing police to detain 447 protesters. Protesters vandalised public property, indulged in arson and pelted stones at trains.

Mumbai bandh over Maratha quota called off after stir escalates

Protesters stop a train in Thane on Wednesday. PTI

Mumbai, July 25 

Maratha Kranti Morcha called off their shutdown call on Wednesday afternoon after violence over reservation spilled on to Mumbai streets, forcing police to detain 447 protesters. 

A police spokesperson said they had detained 447 people and were registering cases against them.

Maratha organisations had given a call for Bandh in Mumbai and surrounding areas on Wednesday.

Protests were held at 45 places in the city, and in some places the civic-run BEST buses were stoned, roads were blockaded and public property was damaged, the spokesperson said.

In adjoining Thane city, police detained 20 persons for vandalising public property.

Thane police commissioner Param Bir Singh said some "mischievous elements" indulged in violence even though the leaders of the agitation tried to maintain peace.

"We have registered offences and so far detained 20 persons. We have also identified some more persons who were involved in these acts," he said.

Police burst teargas shells to disperse a mob that went on a rampage at Nitin Junction, Singh said.

The bandh was called off just before 3 pm after various parts saw violence.

“We only wanted to prove that we are together and proved it. We never wanted protests to get violent and therefore we are calling off our bandh in Mumbai for today,” Virendra Pawar, leader of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, an outfit spearheading agitation for quota for the Maratha community in jobs and education, told reporters here.

The Maratha Kranti Morcha had given the call for the bandh, demanding an apology from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for alleging that some members from the community were planning violence at Pandharpur town in Solapur district.

Fadnavis, who was scheduled to perform puja at a temple on ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’ on Monday but later cancelled it after the Maratha outfits threatened to disrupt the event, has offered to talk to Maratha leaders over their demand.

Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been a hugely contentious issue.

The community leaders had earlier taken out several rallies in various districts to highlight their demands. Last year, a huge rally was organised by the Maratha Kranti Morcha in this connection in Mumbai.

Violence

Earlier today, violence marred the bandh as protesters threw stones at policemen in the neighbouring Navi Mumbai township and Satara district, injuring three personnel.

The police retaliated and cane-charged protesters, fired plastic bullets and lobbed tear gas shells at them, an official said.

Satara’s Superintendent of Police Sandeep Patil sustained a minor injury while two policemen were injured at Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai, he said.

Protesters who gathered at Kalamboli blocked the Mumbai-Goa and Mumbai-Pune highways, he said.

The policemen deployed at the spot tried to take them away as the traffic was blocked because of the protest.

Some persons in the crowd then started throwing stones at the policemen, injuring two personnel, the official said.

Protesters also set afire two police vans in the area, he said.

The police then cane-charged the protesters, lobbed tear gas shells at them and also fired plastic bullets in the air, he said.

Additional police force was called at the spot, he said, adding that the situation in the area was tense.

The traffic movement from Mumbai to Pune and Goa was affected due to the protests at Vashi, Kharghar, Kalamboli and Palaspe, he said.

In Satara district, police cane-charged protesters who blocked the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway at Bombay Restaurant Chowk and threw stones at the policemen, SP Sandeep Patil said.

Tear gas shells were also lobbed at the pro-quota agitators, said Patil, who was injured in the stone-pelting.

A few vehicles were also set afire by the angry protesters in Satara, a police official said.

Meanwhile, the local train services on the trans-harbour line (between Thane and Vashi) were affected for over an hour in the afternoon as protesters halted trains at Ghansoli station, he said.

In the morning also, the movement of trains was disrupted at Ghansoli, he said.

The Mumbai-Goa highway was also blocked near Palaspe at Panvel in Raigad district by protesters.

The Sion-Panvel highway was blocked for some time at Kharghar and Vashi, but the police removed protesters from the road, the official said.

Some agitators burnt tyres at Majiwada in the neighbouring Thane city and auto-rickshaw drivers staged protests at the Nitin Junction, another official said.

In Mumbai, the Western Express Highway witnessed traffic jams due to protests near Jogeshwari flyover and Kandivali.

While imposing the bandh, protesters pelted stones at some local trains as well as buses and set ablaze a bus of the state-owned Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) in suburban Mankhurd.

"Till 1 pm, three buses were damaged by stone pelting and nine buses were damaged by deflating their tyres," BEST spokesperson Hanumant Gofane said.

At around 1.30 pm, protesters set a bus on fire after pouring petrol on it, which was later doused by the fire brigade, he added.

Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire and Congress MLC Subhash Jhambad were manhandled yesterday during the last rites of one of the protesters, Kakasaheb Shinde (27).

Shinde had jumped to death from a bridge over the Godavari river in Aurangabad on Monday.

Another protester, Jagannath Sonawane, 55, consumed a poisonous substance yesterday during the agitation. He died at the Government Medical College and Hospital here on Wednesday morning.

Aurangabad Superintendent of Police Arti Singh claimed he was not a part of the protest and killed himself over domestic issues.

Besides, protester Jayendra Dwarkadas Sonawane (28), who jumped from the bridge on river Venganga on Nashik-Aurangabad road yesterday, was undergoing treatment in a hospital.

Another agitator, Amol Jagtap (26), from Latur district had set himself ablaze but was over-powered by the police.

He was undergoing treatment at a government hospital in Latur for his injuries.

Amid the protests, Shyam Lakhan Kadgaonkar, a head constable from Osmanabad, died on Wednesday near Shinde's funeral venue.

"We are awaiting an autopsy report. Some injury marks were seen on his hands and legs," a police official had earlier said, adding another constable got injured there in stone pelting.

Protesters had torched at fire brigade van and a state transport (ST) bus during Tuesday’s agitation.

Internet services were also suspended in rural areas of Aurangabad district on Tuesday to prevent any untoward incident.

As the stir for reservation in jobs and education intensified, the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation, called for a shutdown in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state's population, has been a hugely contentious issue. Agencies

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