Raising slogans of 'Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha', millions of Marathas determinedly and aggressively marched from Lonavala towards Mumbai, via the Old Mumbai Pune Highway, and slated to touch Navi Mumbai soon, the organisers said.
Heeding to the Pune Police's request, the Shivba Sanghatana leader Manoj Jarange-Patil and other organisers changed the route from the original planned Mumbai Pune Expressway, as the procession stretches for several km and could paralyse traffic there.
Rattled by the sea of protesters hurrying towards the country's commercial capital, the state government sent a delegation to meet him mid-way, but their discussions were fruitless.
"The government sent only some officials. We want Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar to come here and resolve the issue. We are prepared to co-operate with the government," a grim Jarange-Patil told mediapersons. Mumbai Police have denied permission to the Maratha procession at several venues including Azad Maidan, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Park and other locations citing lack of space.
As a temporary measure, the Maratha marchers shall be put up at the Vashi APMC Market tonight as Jarange-Patil remained firm on storming to Azad Maidan on January 26 (Friday) morning. Jarange-Patil is likely to enter Mumbai from Chembur, garland a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, then start towards Dadar and then Azad Maidan. Simultaneously, lakhs of Marathas will troop into Mumbai from various entry points, with the organisers claiming "three-crore community people have responded to the march call" and are arriving here from across Maharashtra, rattling the administration.
Jarange-Patil has been walking most sections of the route since he started from his Antaravali-Sarate village in Jalna on January 20, intending to lay siege to Mumbai on Republic Day, when the city goes under a high-security blanket. CM Shinde, Minister Deepak Kesarkar and other leaders have fervently been appealing to the Marathas to call off their long march to Mumbai as the government is positive and committed to giving them quotas, and it would be announced at a Special Session of Legislature in February. However, Jarange-Patil has made it clear that he had given the government seven months' time and was in no mood to give any further extensions, and vowed that the Marathas would not leave Mumbai till the quotas are granted.
Meanwhile, the Sambhaji Brigade has alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is attempting to create disturbances to prevent the Maratha procession from coming to Mumbai. Sambhaji Brigade leaders like Dr. Yogesh Patil (Palghar-Thane Coordinator), Y.P. Patil, Shahid Qureshi, Kalim Baig and others claimed that the recent disturbances in Mira Road town of Thane were a 'political conspiracy hatched' to disrupt the Maratha march coming to Mumbai on Friday.
They accused BJP MLAs like Nitesh Rane and Geeta Jain of inciting the majority community instead of making efforts to bring peace and harmony as the minorities are fully supportive of Jarange-Patil's procession. As the Marathas trudged to Mumbai, videos of the procession on social media showed a sea of humanity with saffron flags marching firmly for the goal -- reservation at all costs -- to the community.