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MUMBAI: The Maratha Kranti Morcha coordination committee called off the Mumbai Bandh on Wednesday afternoon as the stir for a quota for Marathas turned violent at several places, including Navi Mumbai and Thane. The police arrested 20 people for instigating violence in the guise of participating in the Maratha Morcha, and Navi Mumbai MLC Narendra Patil blamed 'unknown' persons for the violence.
"We have arrested 20 people who had no role to play in the Maratha agitation, yet they participated in the stir and were instigating violence," said Thane police commissioner Parambir Singh. "We have identified a few more miscreants whom our people are chasing. We shall lodge non-bailable cases against all of them," he added, and thanked the Maratha community leaders for their peaceful agitation.
In Navi Mumbai, where protesters had blocked the Pune-Mumbai Expressway for more than six hours, some people tried to create trouble after the agitation was withdrawn.
Narendra Patil, the MLC, said: "We have been in the process of several meetings to organise the band and hence we know many of the leaders. However, today I realized that some unknown people had sneaked into the agitation. I suspect some people were hired to derail the peaceful agitation."
"I'm fully aware that the delay in implementation of reservations has taken the youngsters in the community to the brink. But I was surprised when some of the unknown faces said they won't end the stir till the demands get fulfilled," he added.
In Thane as well as Navi Mumbai, police vehicles were vandalized and police had to burst tear gas shells and resort to caning and firing in the air.
Maratha Kranti Morcha coordination committee leader Virendra Pawar, who announced at around 2 pm that the stir had been withdrawn, said that the organizers suspected that the stir was being exploited by politicians and hence they were withdrawing it.
"The stir was successful. We thank the people of Mumbai and the police for supporting the peaceful stir," Pawar said at a press conference in Dadar.
Maratha Kranti Morcha and the Sakal Maratha Samaj, the umbrella organizations of the Maratha community, had given a call for a shutdown in Mumbai and the adjoining districts of Thane, Palghar and Raigad, while districts like Akola and Satara, where the bandh had not been observed on Tuesday, too witnessed protests on Wednesday.
Though the umbrella organisations had appealed for peaceful protests, they remained peaceful only for a brief time in the morning. Protesters had gathered at several places and appealed to people to observe the bandh. They also blocked roads and railway tracks at several places. But since they lacked numbers, the traffic was restored once the police whisked them away.
According to Mumbai Police PRO DCP Deepak Devraj, protests took place at 45 spots across Mumbai, and a total of 447 people were detained throughout the day.
In Satara too, protestors vandalized police vehicles and beat up policemen. They also hooted away politicians, including MLA Shivendra Raje, one of the direct decedents of Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji.
In Beed, stones were thrown at BJP MLA Laxman Pawar's residence and office, while protesters burnt a forest department vehicle in Ahmednagar. In Nashik, several shops and ATMs were broken and public property was vandalized. In Pune district, protesters burnt tyres on the road to block traffic. At Baramati, protesters took out a mock funeral procession of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. A State Transport bus was vandalized at Survad in the district.
Meanwhile, 18 prominent members of the Maratha community, including former judges, journalists, writers, social workers, historians and industrialists, released a statement in the evening appealing to the community not to resort to violence and exercise restraint.
What is the Maratha agitation all about?
Marathas are an influential community, making up nearly 32 per cent of Maharashtra’s population.
80 % and above land owned by Marathas in Maharashtra.
86 of 105 sugar factories owned by Marathas
55 % educational institutions
70 % cooperative bodies controlled
60 % of all Maharashtra MLAs since 1962
12 of 18 chief ministers were Marathas
What ails Marathas?
Lack of jobs
What they want?
Demand for Maratha quota began in 2016
Kunbis, non-elite tillers from community already in OBC quota since 1989
Marathas want to halt recruitment to govt posts
16% quota granted by UPA government in 2014
Bombay High Court struck down quota
BJP government brought in a new Bill to grant quota
Govt challenged HC order in SC
Case pending in HC
Govt panel set up to collect evidence of socio-economic backwardness of community
Proposal sent to state backward class commission