Marathas to Hold ‘Mother of All Rallies’ Today
Mumbai: It has been billed as the ‘mother of all rallies’ and it’s going to shut down Mumbai on Wednesday. The Maratha community is going to take out a massive morcha from Mumbai’s Jijamata Udyan in Byculla to Azad Maidan.
The rally is meant to be a show of strength by the Maratha community which has exhorted people from the entire state to come and join the rally.
While the Mumbai Police officials expect a crowd of around 2 lakh, Maratha leaders are putting the number to be around15-25 lakh. Congress leader Narayan Rane, also from the community, has endorsed the higher figure while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
Regardless of the figure, Mumbai especially south Mumbai would be paralysed as even a 1,000 odd people converging on the roads throws traffic off gear. The Maratha community, the state’s most powerful in the state, has been carrying out rallies since August last year after the brutal gangrape and murder of a minor girl from the community in Kopardi, allegedly by some Dalits.
The first rally in Aurangabad happened spontaneously, demanding death penalty for the gangrape accussed. The morchas, which are ‘silent rallies’ with no political speeches made, are led by young girls. This quickly caught on and rallies took place in several parts of the state. Soon more de- mands began to be added during the rallies like reservation in education and jobs for the community, amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which the Marathas claim is being misused against them by the Dalit community. They have also demanded a minimum support price for farm produce.
In the past, there were numerous attempts to take out a rally in Mumbai, however, at least three such attempts have failed. Rally organisers have accused Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of scuttling plans for holding a rally in Mumbai by sowing seeds of division within the community.
BJP leaders said the government is worried about the possibility of a law & order problem during such a massive rally. “If there is any untoward incident or violence, it could have massive ramifications for the government, especially for the Chief Minister,” said a BJP leader.
Political analyst Prakash Joshi said the current agitation does have political overtones. “Many Maratha leaders have lost the 2014 elections, so it does have political overtones. The Marathas are also trying to articulate the sentiment shared by the Dhangars and other communities of being included in the OBC category,” said Joshi.
The state on its part is getting fully prepared to avoid any untoward incident on Wednesday. Schools in south Mumbai will be shut tomorrow. Even the famed Mumbai dabbawallas, who seldom shut shop, have decided to participate in the agitation. The Railways will run extra trains to cater to the huge crowd trooping into the city from the interiors of the state. The Mumbai police have closed many roads, including the JJ flyover, for vehicular traffic as the Maratha morcha is set to begin from Byculla Zoo and culminate at Azad Maidan between 11 am and 5 pm. The BMC is providing mobile toilets, a few roads have also been widened as part of the preparations.
SHOW OF STRENGTH