In a distressing turn of events, the ongoing agitation by the Maratha community for reservation in India intensified and turned violent in various places on Monday. The unrest and demonstrations have sparked outrage and caused damage in several regions of Maharashtra’s Marathwada region.
Majalgaon in Beed District: The situation escalated when protesters in Majalgaon, Beed district, shouted slogans, pelted stones, and set fire to the house of local NCP MLA, Prakash Solanke. They also attempted to burn down the municipal council building in the town. The mob’s actions were met with stern resistance from local authorities.
Gangapur in Sambhaji Nagar District: In Gangapur, Sambhaji Nagar district, the office of BJP MLA Prashant Bamb was vandalized, causing significant damage to the premises.
Vandalism of Government Property: The agitation also led to at least three incidents of vandalizing official vehicles belonging to government officials in various parts of Marathwada. Protest marches were organized at multiple locations, and in some areas, political leaders were banned from entering villages. State Transport (ST) buses were also targeted and vandalized.
Shirdi Town Observes Shutdown: In a show of support for the Maratha quota, Shirdi town in Ahmednagar voluntarily observed a shutdown.
Audio Clip Controversy: Members of the Maratha community have been actively seeking support for their agitation. In an attempt to sway public opinion, an audio clip of a phone call involving Prakash Solanke, the NCP MLA from Majalgaon, Beed district, was circulated. In the call, Solanke appealed to the community to engage with the government’s efforts to secure lasting reservation and cautioned against hasty solutions. However, this conversation did not sit well with the agitators, who took to social media to share the audio clip.
Violence Erupts: The incident unfolded at approximately 1:30 pm when an initially peaceful gathering of 300-400 people, armed with sticks, voiced their dissent against the MLA. As the police attempted to disperse the crowd, it escalated into violence, with the mob pelting stones at the MLA’s residence, resulting in damaged windows. Subsequently, they proceeded to damage and set fire to vehicles parked on the ground floor of the building. The MLA and his family were fortunately on the upper floors and remained unharmed. The mob also targeted the Municipal Council building, causing damage.
Response by Authorities: In response to the violent acts, the fire brigade promptly arrived at the scene to extinguish the fire. Simultaneously, the police reviewed CCTV footage in an attempt to identify the perpetrators.
MLA’s Appeal for Calm: In the midst of the turmoil, MLA Prakash Solanke issued a statement urging people to maintain peace. He emphasized his connection to the Maratha community and clarified that he has never opposed the quota agitation. Solanke further asserted that the audio clip in circulation contains distorted information and should not be trusted.
Further Incidents: The unrest in the region extended to bus depots in Nanded, with at least nine of them being closed on Monday. Several government buses were targeted with stone-pelting in Dharashiv (formerly Osmanabad district), and four more buses were damaged in Jalna. In addition, two tehsildar vehicles in Beed were attacked, with one suffering significant damage and another being set on fire.
Embarrassment for the Government: Adding to the government’s embarrassment, unidentified individuals allegedly defaced posters promoting the ‘Government to the Doorstep’ event scheduled in Yavatmal, which Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was set to inaugurate. The act of smearing black paint on these posters serves as a stark reminder of the challenging circumstances and growing tensions surrounding the Maratha community’s reservation agitation.