Pune, September 26: The city of Pune became a melting pot of agitating Maharshtrians from all over the state, as people from Ahmednagar, Nashik, Solapur, Satara and Kolhapur, all assembled to demand reservation for the Maratha community on Sunday. The rally, which began at 10.30 am, with the garlanding of the statue of King Sambhaji, saw 20 Lakh Marathas hold a Muk Morcha (silent agitation) in the city. The streets and by-lanes of the city were teeming with the agitators on Sunday, as they demanded justice for the minor rape and murder victim of Kopardi. The other issues that dominated the agenda were lack of jobs for Marathas and the plight of the farmers from drought-affected Marathwada region.

Speaking to the The Hindu, Shobha Mhaske, a student and a participant of the rally, said, “While we seek justice for the Kopardi crime, there are several issues where our community has been sidelined. In many instances, we find that students with no merit take advantage of reservations, while we lag behind despite working hard at our studies.” Steeplechase runner Lalita Babbar who is a popular figure in the Maratha community, also participated in the rally. Referring to the Kopardi rape case, she told the paper,  “I strongly identify with the concerns of women’s safety.” Some politicians and members of political parties also took part in the rally. Nationalist Congress Party Member of Parliament Udayanraje Bhosale said that he believed in the feasibility of the community’s demands.

“The demands of our community are neither unrealistic nor irrelevant. Successive governments have failed to check farmer suicides. Compensations and subsidies have benefited only richer farmers. It is the duty of all elected representatives of the Maratha community to participate in these marches,” said Bhosale. Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar was also a part of the rally and displayed the Muk Morcha sign when asked to comment by the paper. The rally took place amidst tight security, with 5,o00 police personnel being deputed in and around the areas, to maintain law and order. A control room with 10 computers had also been set up near the Mitra Mandal chowk. ALSO READ: Mi Maratha: The politics of reservation or means to oust Brahmin chief minister Devendra Fadnavis?

Meanwhile, rallies were held in Yavatmal and Washim districts of Vidarbha as well. Both rallies saw an attendance of around 1 Lakh people and 80,000 people respectively. Farmers, who form the most aggrieved section of the community, attended the rallies in large numbers. While the Yavatmal rally saw the presence of Congress leader and former Maharashtra Congress president Manikrao Thakarey and the BJP Minister from Yavatmal, Madan Yerawar, the Washim protest saw the presence of Washim MP and Shiv Sena leader Bhawana Gawali. The leaders of both the rallies were young girls, who also submitted a memorandum of demands to the district officials.

(Image Credits: Sambhaji Patil/Facebook)