Olympian Lalita Babar participated in the Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha held in Pune on Sunday to protest against the Kopardi gangrape and murder.
After holding protests in various districts of Maharashtra, members of the Maratha community held a silent march to press for their demands. "I came here as a normal girl who believes that such a crime should never happen again. As an international athlete, I’ve gotten out of that rural environment, though my parents still work in the farm. But that killing meant girls in villages across the country will think twice before stepping out of the house. I find it unbelievable that women should be made to feel so unsafe," The Indian Express quoted Babar, who is from the Maratha community, as saying.
Babar had finished 10th in the steeplechase in the Rio Olympics and is the first woman athlete from India to qualify in the Olympics final in 33 years.
"The atrocities on women should be taken seriously. It hardly matters, which caste she represents. Her progress is her right and it should be respected," another report in The Times of India had quoted her as saying.
Lakhs of people, including men and women, students, working professionals, lawyers and doctors from the community, participated in the Pune march.
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.
Although 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.
With inputs from PTI