Mumbai: Hundreds of thousands of Marathas from Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Wednesday morning began marching towards Azad Maidan near the state secretariat from Byculla seeking reservation for their community in government jobs and educational institutes.
The Maratha Kranti Morcha which started today at 11 am is said to be the largest demonstration by the Marathas since they launched a movement a year ago to demand death penalty for those arrested over the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Kopardi girl.
The fight for justice rapidly grew into a state-wide agitation against the alleged neglect suffered by the community, which wants reservation in education and jobs, a farm loan waiver, and a minimum support price for agricultural produce.
So far, the Marathas have held 57 rallies in the state. Wednesday's event is being organised by the Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of various community groups. Get the latest updates, here.
Started since August 9, 2016, with processions in 57 different cities, the Maratha Kranti Morcha made its maiden entry in the state capital and ended the year-long campaign through processions by submitting a memo to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The state government, police, BMC and other agencies were fully geared since the past 24 hours as participants in the mega-morcha started trickling in from different parts of the state since Monday night.
The silent protest march whic began at 11am from Byculla is scheduled to end around 05:00 pm at Azad Maidan.
While schools in south Mumbai have been asked to remain shut, commuters are likely to face hassles as roads have been shut for traffic.
There are reports that a few protestors tore Shiv Sena flags in Byculla around 10 am.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil while extending his support says the government does not want to give Marathas reservation.
“It does not even want us to raise the issue inside the house,” he said.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar while extending supports to the Marathas’ quest for reservation, demanded justice for the Kopardi rape and murder victim, says it has been a year since the crime took place.
On the other hand, sebior Congress leader Narayan Rane has reached Azad Maidan. Rane's entry is significant as he was heading a one-man commission which looked into the Maratha reservation policy during the Congress-NCP government.
In another development, opposition MLAs are on their way to support the silent march taken out by the Maratha community, but those leading the march have warned polticians from both the opposition as well as the ruling party to stay away.