Mumbai: Just when the State was breathing easy over the let-up in Maratha violence, came the rude awakening on Monday with scores of state transport buses being vandalised and set on fire in different parts of the state.
In Chakhan, protesters torched 40 buses and damaged around 50 more on the Pune-Nashik highway, forcing commuters to take shelter in office buildings in the vicinity. Police had to lob teargas shells and fire in the air to control the mob, officials said. At least five policemen were injured in the violence. Finally, Section 144, which prohibits the assembly of more than four people in an area, was clamped in the industrial belt. The other flashpoints were Pandharpur, Solapur and parts of Satara. In fact, ST buses were being targeted in Pandharpur pilgrim centre and adjourning Kolhapur since midnight on Sunday-Monday, forcing suspension of all services. The roads were blocked by squatting activists and strewn with burning tyres.
It is suspected that activists of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which was spearheading the recent state-wide agitation over reservation for Marathas, are behind the latest flare-up, too. The Morcha, in turn, expressed its helplessness in the matter and held chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil responsible for Monday’s eruption. It also warned that until and unless both these leaders resign from their post on moral grounds, the agitation will not stop.
There was violence elsewhere in the state, too — in Osmanabad, Kolhapur, Nandurbar and Aurangabad – marked by road blocks and noisy processions on foot and on motorcycles. The administration could do little except clamp Section 144. The shutdown turned violent in Solapur city, with agitators pelting stones on policemen. Solapur Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime and Special Branch) Pournima Chowgule’s car was damaged and the vehicle’s front windows have been smashed. Activists attempted to set afire some vehicles and ST buses in Nandurbar, too, but were thwarted by police, though some parts observed a shutdown.
A large crowd of demonstrators congregated along the Aurangabad-Jalna road following Pramod Hore Patil’s suicide, with the city police deploying riot control teams. Praveen Gaikwad, founder of Maratha Kranri Morcha, held the CM and the revenue minister responsible for the violence. He said, “Educational institutions are not giving 50 percent concession in fees, as per a government resolution, to Maratha community. That is why the youths are angry.’’
He further said, “I am unable to say whether the violence will stop as the agitations are leaderless and nobody is in a mood to listen. Like Lal Bahadur Shastri, CM Fadnavis and Patil should resign on moral grounds, as they have failed to tackle the situation; on the contrary, they have poured doused petrol on their inflammable passion,” said Gaikwad