Mumbai, Aug 9 (IANS) Mumbai was engulfed by a ‘Maratha storm’ as lakhs of people from the politically powerful community began their first, biggest and final mammoth ‘mook morcha’ (silent procession) here on Wednesday, seeking reservation in jobs and education.
The official ‘mook morcha’ took off from the Byculla Zoo and onto the Azad Maidan — a distance of around six km — with lakhs marching peacefully and silently but making a loud political statement for the ruling establishment.
While the majority were on foot, there were some adventurous Marathas who came on bicycles and some others riding horses, a few even dressed like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — the idol of all Maharashtrians, grabbing attention of the media crews positioned strategically across south Mumbai.
Several top leaders of various political parties also joined the procession and interacted with the participants.
Started on August 9, 2016, with processions in 57 cities, the Maratha Kranti Morcha made its maiden entry in the state capital on Wednesday and will end the year-long campaign for reservation by submitting a memoranbdum to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the evening.
The state government, police, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other agencies were fully geared since the past 24 hours as the participants started trickling into the city from different parts of the state on Monday.
Many parts of the city resembled a sea of Maratha community as several lakhs walked at a medium pace, sporting saffron turbans, carrying big and small saffron community flags. But there were no banners or placards of political messages.
Though the authorities anticipated between five to eight lakh Marathas to arrive, there were no official crowd estimates available till 1 p.m. The organisers are optimistic the city march will be the crown of all morchas so far, and the figure will cross three million.
“A delegation of Maratha leaders will call on the Chief MInister to submit a memorandum listing their various demands. Though there are many issues, stress will be on education and job reservations for the Maratha community members,” said former Chief Minister Narayan Rane, a prominent Maratha leader himself.
He headed a special committee appointed by the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime to study the socio-economic conditions of the Maratha community.
Wednesday’s procession has secured the support of all political parties with even the NDA constituents Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India-A announcing their support late on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Maratha Morcha into Mumbai from the five entry points from across the mainland, besides the railways, resulted in huge traffic jams in the city and adjacent districts of Thane, Raigad and Palghar.
The demonstrators reached the state capital by trains, private vehicles, trucks, tempos and even two-wheelers, waving Maratha flags and sporting bright orange turbans.
The Mumbai police have geared up with over 7,000 personnel, including commandos, armed police, police in plainclothes, to provide security. Besides, metal detectors, dog squads and drones have been deployed to monitor security.
The police have made use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, FM radios and other platforms to provide updates on traffic to the millions of office-goers in the peak morning and evening hours.
All schools and colleges in south Mumbai were ordered shut by Education Minister Vinod Tawde for the day to ensure students were not inconvenienced during the procession.