The Maratha community has held 57 "silent rallies" across Maharashtra in the last 12 months demanding reservations. But having failed to achieve the desired results, they have decided to hold one final march, in Mumbai on Wednesday, 9 August. The silent rallies have been held in every district of the state, starting with Aurangabad on 9 August, 2016. That came as a response to the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old Maratha girl in Kopardi in western Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district in July 2016.
The organisers have held a bike rally in Mumbai in the past, but this is the first time a silent march will take place in the state capital. Virendra Pawar, coordinator of the 'Maratha Silent March', said preparations for the 58th parade have begun. "The march will start from Byculla Zoo at 11 am and end at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai. It will be a silent march, like all the previous ones we held. Which means no speeches and no slogans," he added.
The organisers intend this to be a show of strength, hoping the state government takes note. "The spirit and code of conduct will remain the same as the previous 57 rallies. We will start with girls, then women, senior citizens and conclude with the men," said Bhaiya Patil, in-charge of the social media wing.
The organisers have placed a list of 15 demands before the government, of which some have been fulfilled. "We held 57 silent marches in the last one year, but it seems the state government isn't very serious about the community. Due to demonetisation and other reasons, we slowed down our campaign, but all Maratha groups have come together again to revive our demands. Every one of us is keen on taking our morcha successfully to Mumbai, to show how we have strength in numbers. All political parties have supported us, and many MLAs have also assured us of their participation," Patil said.
When asked about what numbers they are expecting ahead of the rally, he said it's difficult to put a specific number, but given there have been over 10,000 registrations from every district, the eventual turnout would be very big. Thirty-five percent of the state's population belong to the Maratha community.
While the primary demand of the community is speedy prosecution and death penalty for the culprits in the Kopardi rape and murder incident, the group has also demanded reservation quotas in government jobs and aided educational institutions. They also want farm loan waiver as recommended by the DR Swaminathan commission.
After lakhs of people marched in different parts of the state over the last 12 months, the BJP government in Maharashtra announced a scheme for students under economically backward class, meant to provide fee concessions. The Monsoon Session of the state legislature is currently underway, and the Devendra Fadnavis government has already tried contacting the dissenters and called them for discussions. However, the protestors said they would discuss with the government only after their morcha is done.
To handle the huge numbers on Wednesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to use the adjacent Bombay Gymkhana ground along with Azad Maidan. BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta and Commissioner of Police Datta Padsalgikar had met last week to discuss preparations and necessary arrangements from a security point of view. Due to ongoing work over the Mumbai Metro project, Azad Maidan is currently capable of holding not more than 10,000 participants. But with over 5 lakh expected to throng south Mumbai for the silent march on Wednesday, the security agencies are on high alert with their mob control mechanism in place, said a senior officer in charge of arrangements.
Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 20:22 PM