Large-scale violence marred a state-wide protest on Tuesday by Maratha outfits demanding reservation for the community in Maharashtra, where a constable died and nine other policemen were injured amid suicide attempt by three agitators.
Stone-pelting and arson were reported from several parts of the state, which remained on edge on Tuesday and braced for a Mumbai bandh on Wednesday.
Agitators clashed with the police and torched vehicles at several places, while internet services were suspended in rural areas of Aurangabad district to prevent any untoward incident. In Jalna, the police fired in the air to scatter protesters.
As the stir for reservation in jobs and education intensified, the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation, is taking its battle to Mumbai where it has called for the shutdown. Another outfit, the Sakal Maratha Samaj, called for a bandh on Wednesday in Navi Mumbai and Panvel as well.
The impact of Tuesday’s bandh was more visible in Aurangabad and adjoining districts in the central region of the state, a day after the death of a protester.
Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been a hugely contentious issue.
A constable deployed near the funeral venue of the protester who jumped to death on Monday, died. Police said the cause of death is yet to be ascertained.
“The post-mortem report is awaited. Some injury marks were seen on his hands and legs,” a police official said, adding another constable there got injured in stone-pelting.
Protester Kakasaheb Shinde, 27, had jumped to death from a bridge over the Godavari in Aurangabad on Monday.
Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire faced the ire of the protesters when he went to attend his last rites at his Kaygaon village on Tuesday.
Khaire was manhandled by the crowd and had to beat a hasty retreat, police said, adding there was stone pelting on his car too.
The police at the venue caned protesters and lobbed tear gas shells, Aurangabad Superintendent of Police Arti Singh said. “The situation in Aurangabad is under control. Police are alert to avert any unwanted incident.”
Eight policemen, including two officers, were hurt after protesters threw stones at the Ghansangvi police station, police said. A fire brigade van was also set ablaze at Kaygaon.
Jalna SP Ramnath Pokale said agitators pelted stones at a tehsil office. “To disperse the violent mob, we fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells,” he said, adding the police were trying to arrest those involved in the violence.
The situation is now under control and additional State RPF personnel have been sent, Pokale said.
Protesters also threw stones on a Hyderabad-Latur bus in Nilanga tehsil in Latur.
The Aurangabad Municipal Corporation general body meeting on Tuesday decided to give a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Shinde’s kin. A resolution seeking 16 per cent quota for the Marathas in jobs and education was also approved there.
In Sangli, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said the government has done whatever was within its ambit and now it was up to the courts to take a call on the issue. Some “paid” people have infiltrated the stir, he said.
Protester Jagannath Sonawane, 31, from Aurangabad, sought to emulate Shinde’s example by jumping onto a dry river bed, while another, Guddu Sonawane, also from the district, consumed poison. They have been admitted to a hospital, police said.
In Thane, activist Mangesh Suryavanshi, 38, jumped into a creek near the Ganesh Ghat, but was saved by police and others, Thane Police PRO Sukhada Narkar said. He received minor injuries and was admitted to a hospital.
In Nanded, police cane-charged protesters to disperse them, an official said.
At Kaygaon, Aurangabad, protesters shouted slogans hailing Shinde as a ‘martyr’, police said.
Pune saw sporadic incidents of stone pelting. Some people threw stones at an administrative building in Baramati and a state transport bus was attacked, ASP Sandip Pakhale said.
Maratha Kranti Morcha members took out a rally in Pune.
“Our members took out a rally in Pune and traders kept their shops closed in Deccan, Laxmi Road and Bajirao Road areas of the city,” said Shantaram Kunjir, a convener of the morcha.
The bandh received lukewarm response in Yavatmal and Amravati. In Yavatmal, the bandh call was given by the Maratha Mahasangh.
In Amravati, activists paid homage to Shinde at Rajkamal Square. They later marched to the Kotwali Police Station and submitted a memorandum addressed to the CM.
The bandh received a mixed response in Ahmednagar and Nashik districts.
In Nashik district, activists staged a rasta roko on the Mumbai-Agra National Highway. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation suspended its services to Aurangabad from Nashik, an official said.
Protesters burnt tyres at Sakora in Nandgaon taluka of Nashik, affecting traffic, the Rural Police Control said.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil blamed CM Devendra Fadnavis for the stir taking a violent turn and demanded his resignation.
Fadnavis had cancelled his visit to a temple in Pandharpur protesters threatened to disrupt the event.
Despite assurances from Fadnavis, nothing concrete has been done till now, community leaders have claimed.
“We will continue our agitation until the CM apologises to the Maratha community (for alleging that some members from the community were planning violence at Pandharpur),” Morcha coordinator Ravindra Patil said.