A day after a protest over Maratha quota turned violent in Maharashtra's Jalna, leading to some police personnel and others getting injured, the situation is under control on Saturday and the police have filed a case against more than 360 persons, of whom 16 have been identified, for their alleged involvement in violence, an official said.
The police used baton-charge and fired teargas shells to disperse a violent mob at Antarwali Sarathi village on Dhule-Solapur road in Ambad tehsil, around 75 km from Aurangabad, on Friday.
The protesters, led by Manoj Jarange, had been staging a hunger strike demanding reservation for the Maratha community at the village since Tuesday.
The trouble began when police tried to shift Jarange to a hospital on doctors' advice, officials said.
The agitation turned violent as some persons targeted state transport buses and private vehicles, police said. Villagers claimed that police fired some rounds in the air, but officials did not confirm it.
On Saturday, the agitators remained firm on their demand and said they would continue with the stir till the government provides reservation to the community.
They also questioned the police action against their "peaceful" agitation and asked why they fired bullets in the air and lathi-charged the protesters.
According to the police, around 40 police personnel and some other persons were injured in the violence.
The protesters torched at least 15 state transport buses and some private vehicles, they said.
"An offence was registered at Gondi police station in Jalna against 16 agitators, who have been identified, and around 350 others for their involvement in violence on Friday," a senior police official said.
The case was filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 307 (attempt to murder), 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and others, he said.
Police personnel and a company of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) are now deployed at the village, the official said.
Jalna superintendent of police Tushar Doshi told PTI, "Nearly 40 police personnel were injured in the violence yesterday. The police used plastic bullets and tear shells to disperse the protesters and bring the situation under control. No arrest has been so far and the situation is under control now."
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Friday made an appeal for peace and announced that a committee will be set up for a high-level probe into the violence, while deputy Chief Minister and home minister Devendra Fadnavis claimed that the police were forced to use baton-charge due to stone pelting.
The reservation provided by the state government for the politically dominant Maratha community was quashed by the Supreme Court earlier.
Talking to reporters in Antarwali Sarathi village this morning, protest spearhead Jarange said, "The hunger strike won't be called off now. Our sisters and the entire village have been protesting in a peaceful manner. The CM has formed a committee over the Maratha reservation, but it has not submitted a report and hence we are agitating."
Showing a bullet in hand he said, "These bullets were fired and we were lathi-charged inhumanly. Women were also beaten up. Are we Pakistanis or do we have relatives in that country? Why did they fire? We will not stop until we get a reservation, let (CM) Shinde fire as many bullets as he wants."
A woman, who has also been on a hunger strike with Jarange, sought to know why the police lathi-charged the protesters.
"What was the need (for the police) to disturb the atmosphere here. If we wanted to beat someone, then we would have come with lathis in our hands...The government should provide reservation to the Maratha community," she said.
Former MP Sambhaji Chhatrapati, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and prominent Maratha leader, visited Antarwali Sarathi village on Saturday morning and extended his support to those agitating for the quota demand.
Addressing media persons, he said, "Those on hunger strike here are followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and not of Mughals or Nizams. Firing on people and using lathis against them used to happen during the era of Mughals and Nizams."
"For how many more years the community will have to fight for the reservation demand. The government must tell when they will provide reservation. The same party rules the state as well as at the Centre," he said.
The government should withdraw the cases registered against the protesters, the founder of 'Swarajya' organisation said, adding that 58 peaceful marches were taken out across the state over the Maratha quota demand in the past.
Meanwhile, an official said that Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar is scheduled to visit Antarwali Sarathi village post-noon on Saturday. He will arrive in Aurangabad and then go to the village. He will also visit the sub-district hospital in Ambad and a primary health centre.
In the wake of the violence in which several state transport buses were torched, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation has decided to run buses only on selected routes in the division for the time being.
MSRTC's divisional controller Sachin Kshirsagar said, "Nearly 350 buses have been kept off roads in different depots of the division. Buses are not being operated on Aurangabad-Ahmednagar-Pune, Beed, Jalna, Paithan routes (from Aurangabad). Limited number of buses are being released on certain routes."