To further press their demand for reservations in jobs and education in Maharashtra, an umbrella organisation of pro-quota Maratha groups have called for a day-long state-wide shutdown. However, there will be no bandh or protests in Navi Mumbai and Thane.
The bandh call has forced authorities to announce closure of schools and colleges in some areas fearing violence.
Meanwhile, the state police have beefed up security across several districts, which includes deployment of six companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF), one company each of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) at sensitive locations.
Home Guard personnel are also being deployed to assist the police at various places.
The ‘bandh’ is being organised despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ assurances that his government was working on providing reservation to the Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, one that is legally sustainable.
Fadnavis had sought time till November to take steps with regard to the quota.
On the eve of the bandh, senior minister Chandrakant Patil said today that “nothing can be done” on their demand till November 15.
Police said they have they have appealed to activists to hold protests in a peaceful manner and not take law into their hands.
However, there is a possibility that anti-social elements could infiltrate the protests for causing disturbance.
Police will videograph the protests and maintain a strict vigil in various areas in Mumbai and other parts through CCTV cameras. Police personnel in plainclothes will also be deployed among the protesters.
Marathwada, western Maharashtra, Thane and Navi Mumbai had witnessed maximum violence during a bandh called by Maratha organisations last month to press the community’s demand for reservation.
Around 20 policemen, including eight officers, were injured in stone-pelting by protesters at Kopar Khairane and Kalamboli. A protester, injured in the violence in Navi Mumbai, had succumbed to his injuries.
According to the police, between July 18 and 27, 276 cases of violence were registered across the state during the quota agitation. There were incidents of stone pelting at over 250 places and 198 incidents of arson, he said.
Property, including both public and private, worth more than Rs 4.5 crore was damaged within those 10 days, a police official said.
Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, today said the ‘bandh’ would be observed across Maharashtra, except Navi Mumbai, today.
“It will be a state-wide bandh, excluding Navi Mumbai. All the essential services, schools and colleges have been excluded from the bandh,” Amol Jadhavrao, a leader of Sakal Maratha Samaj told reporters.
“Due to some sensitive issues, we have decided not to observe bandh in Navi Mumbai,” he said.
Jadhavrao said, “It will be a peaceful protest from 8 am to 6 pm. I appeal to my fellow Maratha youths to desist from committing suicides. It is not going to help the community and its cause.”
Another Maratha faction has, however, given a call to only hold a sit-in outside the Mumbai suburban district collector’s office.
Fearing violence during the bandh, Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram issued an order today that schools and colleges will remain shut today.
The Bombay High Court had on Tuesday urged the Maratha community members to refrain from resorting to violence or committing suicide over their demand for reservation in government jobs and education.