Violence, arson marks Maratha quota bandh in Maharashtra

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Mumbai:

The pro-quota bandh called by some Maratha groups on Thursday was marked by sporadic violence and arson, disruption of road traffic and rallies in various parts of Maharashtra.

The day-long agitation began on a relatively peaceful note in the morning but turned violent in the afternoon.

Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, have been demanding 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and education.

Violence and arson was witnessed on Thursday despite the appeal by the Maratha community leaders for carrying out the protests in a peaceful manner.

The Maratha groups organised the bandh despite the assurance by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that his government was working on providing reservation in a legally sustainable manner.

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Pune was one of the worst hit by Thursday’s agitation, with a mob vandalising property at the district collectorate and violence being witnessed at some other places.

Authorities had ordered closure of schools and colleges and suspended internet services in Pune to prevent rumour-mongering.

Plants of many companies also remained shut.

“According to my information, the main gate of the administrative building and the security cabin’s glass were damaged,” Collector Naval Kishor Ram said.

According to sources, the protesters also damaged some light bulbs in the premises.

Authorities had taken precautions to prevent any untoward incident and suspended internet services in seven tehsils of the district to check rumour-mongering.

In the evening, some miscreants resorted to stone pelting at the police in Chandni Chowk area of Pune.

“After the agitation, some anti-social elements started pelting stones at the police and even tried to block the Mumbai-Bengaluru Highway,” Shivaji Bodkhe, joint commissioner of police (law and order) of Pune police said.

“When the policemen tried to stop them from blocking the highway, they started pelting stones, prompting the police to chase them and resort to mild lathi charge in order to disperse them,” he said.

He said the police was in the process of detaining all such people who are “not agitators but miscreants”.

“The vehicular traffic on the highway has been resumed now and the situation is under control,” he said.

Chakan, an industrial hub about 40 kms from Pune which saw violence on July 30 during a similar agitation, remained peaceful, the police said.

In Aurangabad city, a mob pelted stones on the police and set ablaze four vehicles, including a police vehicle, the police said.

Some industrial units in the area were also targeted by the mob, he said.

The police lobbed tear gas shells on the protesters and tried to disperse the mob, he said.

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Two groups of protesters clashed when someone allegedly shouted slogans against Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at Kranti Chowk in Aurangabad district, a police official said.

“One person was injured in the incident but we brought the situation under control. We separated the two groups and dispersed their members,” a police official said.

The internet service in some parts of the city was temporarily suspended for some time, the official said.

In Hingoli district of Marathwada, the protesters torched a godown of the Panchayat Samitee in Sengaon area, an official said.

The protesters also created road blockades and staged sit-in protests in Hingoli city and rural area, he said.

The violent protesters vandalised a toll plaza at Manvat in Parbhani district, he said.

A railway gateman was thrashed by the protesters at Purna railway station, he said.

In Latur, Congress MLA Trimbakrao Bhise faced the ire of Maratha protesters, who surrounded him pushed him away, police said.

Protesters targeted the former chief minister Ashok Chavan-controlled Satyaprabha newspaper in Nanded. They broke window panes of the office, police said.

A mob approached the newspaper office and pelted stones at it, they said.

Stones were also allegedly pelted at the office of another Marathi daily Pudhari, located in the same area, police said.

Protesters held a sit-in outside the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Baramati tehsil of Pune, and were joined by his nephew Ajit Pawar in support of the Maratha community’s demand for reservation in government jobs and education.

Protesters halted buses and other vehicles on roads in Latur, Jalna, Solapur and Buldhana districts. They blocked the Madha-Shetfal road, which connects to National Highway No. 9 (Pune-Hyderabad) in Solapur district, officials said.

Some agitators burnt tyres on roads in Jalna and Ahmednagar districts, a police official said.

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The call for bandh was given by Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, but excluded Navi Mumbai, which had witnessed large-scale violence last month during protests by the community.

Though Navi Mumbai has been excluded from the bandh, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Turbhe in the densely populated township decided to remain shut today.

Security was stepped up in Navi Mumbai, with deployment of city police personnel along with a company of the Rapid Action Force and the Reserve Police Force.

The public transport buses and local trains were running normal in the town. Heavy security was deployed on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and Mumbai-Goa Highway near Kalamboli, a police official said.

Even though Maratha groups excluded essential services from the purview of the bandh, supply of vegetables was affected in some parts of the state, including Mumbai, APMC officials said.

A traffic department official said the number of vehicles on National Highway number four (Mumbai-Pune) and on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway was significantly less compared to other days.

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