Mumbai, July 31: The Maratha quota agitation seems to be far from over as the spate of suicides related to the issue rose to six on Tuesday after a labourer and a student ended their lives, while eight protesters attempted suicide in Maharashtra.
The 17-year-old student – identified as Pradip Hari Mhaske – died after jumping into a well at Vadodbazar village in Fulambri tehsil of Aurangabad district.
Mhaske’s suicide triggered a fresh set of protests, with Maratha community members staging a ‘rasta roko’ protest on the Aurangabad-Jalgaon road.
His family members demanded immediate grant of quota for Marathas, financial compensation and also action against the college which denied him admission, he said.
Abhijeet Deshmukh, 35, a farm labourer in Veeda village in Beed district in Marathwada region hanged himself from a tree near his house on Tuesday.
Among the other reasons Deshmukh mentioned in his suicide note were unemployment and unpaid bank loan, a police official said.
“We found a suicide note in which Deshmukh mentioned that he is taking this extreme step in support of Maratha reservation demand,” Beed SP G Shridhar told PTI.
This is the fifth suicide in the state over Maratha reservation issue.
A 38-year-old man allegedly committed suicide on July 29 in Nanded district over the Maratha quota demand, police said.
Kacharu Kalyane hanged himself from the ceiling at his home in Dhabad village of Nanded district when his family members were out for some work.
His suicide note mentioned that he was ending his life over the Maratha community’s demand for reservation, a police official said.
A 35-year-old man had allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a moving train in Aurangabad on July 29 over the Maratha quota demand, police said.
Last week, two men in Aurangabad district committed suicide over demand for the quota, while another protester, injured in the Maratha stir violence in Navi Mumbai, died at a Mumbai hospital on July 26.
Eight protesters attempted self-immolation by pouring kerosene in support of Maratha reservation in Latur district, also in Marathwada region, police said.
In the self-immolation attempt, held outside the tehsildar office at Ausa in Latur district, eight protesters poured kerosene on themselves and attempted suicide but police intervened before they could do so, Latur Superintendent of Police Shivaji Rathod said.
The protesters were taken into custody. “After convincing them to take up their demands with the government, we allowed them to go,” he added.
In Mumbai on Wednesday, Maratha community members will hold a protest against the BJP-led state government’s “failure” to withdraw criminal cases against the protesters.
Maratha community members will hold a jail bharo protest in Mumbai on Wednesday, Sakal Maratha Morcha leader Praveen Patil said.
“The state government, despite its assurance of withdrawing criminal charges of vandalism and damaging public property against some protesters, has not taken any action and that is why we are holding the protest Mumbai tomorrow,” Patil said.
He also sought an apology from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil and BJP MLA Ram Kadam for “defaming” Maratha quota agitation and its leaders.
The politically influential Maratha community, constituting around 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been agitating to press its demand for reservation in jobs and education.
The community had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands, prominently for reservation.
However, their latest round of agitation has taken a violent turn. Protesters indulged in violence and arson at separate places in Maharashtra yesterday.
Four police officials were injured in stone pelting, and around 70 vehicles, including state-run buses and police vans, were damaged or torched during the violence in Chakan near Pune yesterday.
Amid the continuing agitation, the Opposition Congress and the NCP yesterday approached state Governor Vidyasagar Rao, requesting him to direct the Devendra Fadnavis government to announce a decision on the reservation issue immediately.
Maratha outfits have announced that a mega rally will be held in Mumbai on August 9 in support of their quota demand.
(With PTI inputs)