Mumbai: After daylong protests seeking reservation for the Maratha community, the agitating groups led by Maratha Kranti Morcha have finally called off the violent protest on Wednesday evening. Maharashtra Chief minister has assured the community of positive "talks".
The agitation was called off midway even as one of the protesters died after consuming poison and violence marred the pro-reservation protests.
The Maharashtra bandh that caused much chaos across several parts of the state, including capital Mumbai, was called off just before 3 pm soon after the demonstrations reached the city.
Protesters torched buses, indulged in arson and pelted stones at policemen, trains, disrupting essential services. Stones were pelted on cops in Navi Mumbai township and Satara district, injuring three personnel. The police retaliated and cane-charged protesters, fired plastic bullets and lobbed tear gas shells at them, an official said.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The government has taken cognisance of the protests by Maratha community and has taken several decisions. The government is ready to talk to them. We had earlier made a reservation law for the community but that was stayed by Bombay HC.”
Citing reasons that they do not want to disrupt the lives of Mumbaikars, the group announced its decision to end the protests after violence erupted in several parts of the state. However, according to some, the agitation might resume again.
"We only wanted to prove that we are together and proved it. We never wanted protests to get violent and therefore, we are calling off our bandh in Mumbai for today," Virendra Pawar, leader of the Morcha, told reporters in Mumbai.
"We suspect some people carried out violent activities with political motives. Otherwise, it was supposed to be peaceful like before. But considering the reports of violence coming from outside Mumbai, we decided to call it off," Pawar added.
Another leader of the Morcha said a bandh may be called again on August 9 but a final call in this regard will be taken after consulting all senior members of all Maratha morchas.
Meanwhile, local train services on the trans-harbour line (between Thane and Vashi) were affected for over an hour in the afternoon as protesters halted trains at Ghansoli station, police said.
The Mumbai-Goa highway was also blocked near Palaspe at Panvel in Raigad district by protesters. The Sion-Panvel highway was blocked for some time at Kharghar and Vashi, but the police removed protesters from the road.
The Maratha Kranti Morcha had given the call for the bandh, demanding an apology from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for alleging that some members from the community were planning violence at Pandharpur town in Solapur district.
Fadnavis, who was scheduled to perform puja at a temple on 'Ashadhi Ekadashi' on Monday, cancelled it after the Maratha outfits threatened to disrupt the event.
Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state's population, has been a hugely contentious issue.
The community leaders had earlier taken out several rallies in various districts to highlight their demands. Last year, a huge rally was organised by the Maratha Kranti Morcha in this connection in Mumbai.
"Whatever we had to convey to the government, we have done so. But we have been disappointed by the government's response over the last two years," Pawar said.
He said not a single representative from the government had reached out to the protesters.
Attacking the chief minister, the agitation leader said Fadnavis has been "confining himself to his AC room" and never bothered to address their demands.
(With PTI inputs)