The day-long bandh in Mumbai, called by pro-quota maratha groups, was called off midway today after violence marred the protests even as one more protester died, a day after consuming poison.
Protesters attacked buses, indulged in arson and pelted stones at local trains in several parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai and the adjoining Thane city, during the bandh called by Maratha outfits to press their demand for reservation in jobs and education.
Three policemen, including a Superintendent of Police, suffered injuries in stone pelting. The Mumbai-Pune and Mumbai-Goa highways were blocked for hours by the protesters. Police used force, including teargas shelling and baton charge, to disperse the violent protesters at several places.
The agitation, organised in the form of a bandh in various places of Maharashtra since Monday, today reached Mumbai where a shutdown was attempted to be imposed.
However, the bandh in the financial capital of India, which began this morning, 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 Morcha, told reporters here.
"We suspect some people carried out violent activities with political motives. Otherwise, it was supposed to be peaceful like before. But considering the reports of violence coming from outside Mumbai, we decided to call it off," Pawar added.
Another leader of the Morcha said a bandh may be called again on August 9 but a final call in this regard will be taken after consulting all senior members of all maratha morchas.
Marathas, a politically-influential community constituting around 30 percent of the state's population, have been demanding reservation in jobs and education. The community members have 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. On Sunday last, a 27-year-old protester, Kakasaheb Shinde, jumped off a bridge over Godavari River in Aurangabad and died. This led to intensification of the agitation. Yesterday, a man, identified as Jagannath Sonawane, consumed a poisonous substance during the protest in Aurangabad. He died today at a local government hospital.
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, cancelled it after the Maratha outfits threatened to disrupt the event. "Whatever we had to convey to the government, we have done so. But we have been disappointed by the government's response over the last two years," Pawar said.
The agitation leader said not a single representative from the government had reached out to the protesters. Attacking the chief minister, the agitation leader said Fadnavis has been "confining himself to his AC room" and never bothered to address their demands.
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.
Train movement on a section of the local network was affected due to the protests, police said. Superintendent of Police Sandeep Patil suffered a minor injury in stone pelting in Satara, while two other policemen were injured in Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai, an official said.
First Published: IST