Millions of Marathas, chanting slogans of 'Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha,' embarked on a determined march from Lonavala towards Mumbai via the Old Mumbai Pune Highway. The massive procession, organized by Shivba Sanghatana, sought reservation for the Maratha community. The Pune Police requested a change in the route from the original plan on the Mumbai Pune Expressway to prevent traffic disruptions.
Despite a delegation sent by the state government to meet with the organizers, including Shivba Sanghatana leader Manoj Jarange-Patil, discussions proved fruitless. The organizers demanded the presence of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar for resolving the issue.
Mumbai Police denied permission for the Maratha procession at various venues, citing space constraints. As a temporary measure, the marchers stayed at the Vashi APMC Market. The organizers remained firm on storming Azad Maidan on January 26, Republic Day morning. The marchers are expected to enter Mumbai from Chembur, garland a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, proceed to Dadar, and then march to Azad Maidan.
The Marathas, responding to the march call, are arriving from across Maharashtra, creating challenges for the administration. The organizers claim that three crore community members have responded to the march call.
The Shivba Brigade accused the BJP of attempting to create disturbances to prevent the Maratha procession from reaching Mumbai. Alleging political conspiracy, the brigade leaders pointed to recent disturbances in Mira Road, accusing BJP MLAs Nitesh Rane and Geeta Jain of inciting the majority community.
The march underscores the persistent demand for Maratha reservation, with the organizers expressing determination not to leave Mumbai until quotas are granted. The government has appealed for the march to be called off, promising a positive announcement regarding quotas in a Special Session of the Legislature in February.
(With Agency Inputs)