Pune: After holding protests in various districts of Maharashtra, members of the Maratha community on Sunday held a silent march to press for their demands.
Lakhs of people, including men and women, students, working professionals, lawyers and doctors from the community, participated in the march, under the umbrella of 'Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha'.
The agitation continued for three hours as protesters marched from Deccan Gymkhana to Council hall, where six girls submitted a memorandum and charter of demands to Pune District Collector Saurabh Rao.
The community has been holding marches in different districts to press for their demands, including punishment of culprits in Kopardi rape and murder case, quota in education and government jobs, Amendment in SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) to stop its misuse, loan waiver to farmers to curb suicides, and guaranteed rate for agricultural produce.
"After the brutal rape and murder of a girl in Kopardi, there is anger in the community, and with the huge silent marches being organised sans political leaders state-wide, the government must take cognisance of the demands of the community," the memorandum said.
Though organisers claimed that Sunday's march had a record footfall of 30 lakh, police said eight to 10 lakh people, mainly from rural areas, participated in the march.
"The march was executed by the organisers in a disciplined manner and it ended within two to three hours with no untoward incident," a senior police official said.
Rajendra Kondhare, one of the organisers, said several people, who had come from outside the city, could not reach the starting point as they got stuck midway due to huge crowd on the roads.
A Maratha community member, who participated in the march, said, "Though the entire march was conducted peacefully and with complete discipline, we have sent our demands to the government loud and clear."
NCP MP from Satara Udayan Raje Bhosale, party MLA Dilip Walse Patil, Pune MP Anil Shirole were among those who took part in the march. Noted athlete from Satara Lalita Babar also participated.
Earlier, the Maratha rallies in Aurangabad, Navi Mumbai, Akola, Latur and Nanded, Nashik, Osmanabad, Ahmednagar also drew huge crowds.
Meanwhile, despite heavy rainfall, over 1.5 lakh people of the Maratha-Kunbi community from various parts of the district participated in the silent march in Yavatmal city.
Men and women of all ages participated in the rally which was flagged off from the local Postal ground at around 12.30 pm. Senior members from the community remained behind in the march as some girls took the centre stage.
The rally reached the local LIC Square and a delegation met District Collector (in charge) Laxman Raut and handed him a memorandum of demands.
Their demands include capital punishment for the culprits of the Kopardi rape and murder case, amendments to SC and ST Prevention of Atrocity Act, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations, reservation to Marathas, fair price for agro produces, hike in scholarship for EBC students, increase in hostels for them and others.
Though the morcha was well disciplined, an official of the City Police Station allegedly abused some mediapersons and threatened those who tried to reach the main venue.
A complaint in this regard was lodged with Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Kumar Singh, who assured of proper action in the matter.
Senior leaders like Deputy Chairman of Maharashtra Legislative Council Manikrao Thakre (Congress), sitting MP Bhavana Gawali (Shiv Sena) were among those who participated in the march. Traffic movement in the city was affected and outstation vehicles were diverted through the bypasses.