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Maratha flare-up: Maharashtra orders high-level probe into police crackdown on protesters

Mumbai, Sep 2, 2023- Rattled by the sudden stir by various pro-quota Maratha groups in the state, the Maharashtra government on Saturday ordered a high-level investigation into the police actions against the protesters.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the probe will go into the aerial firing, baton-charge and misuse of force and strict action will be taken against the guilty police officers.

The decision came a day after the police action against the protesting Marathas at Antarvali-Sarati village in Ambad, Jalna, which witnessed rioting and arson targeting several public and private vehicles.

On Saturday, the agitation spread as various forms of protests were carried out in Jalna, Thane, Nashik, Solapur, Sangli, Osmanabad, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Beed, Aurangabad, Amravati, Hingoli, Buldhana, Yavatmal and Nagpur.

The protests included processions, demonstrations, burning effigies of political leaders, stray incidents of arson and tyre burnings, road blocks, etc.

As a precautionary measure, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) suspended bus services in several districts or routes to prevent targeting of its vehicles.

Top leaders, including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) President Uddhav Thackeray, Congress’ ex-CM Ashok Chavan, Leader of Opposition (Council) Ambadas Danve, royal descendants Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje Bhosale and Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale and others rushed to Jalna to pacify the agitating Marathas.

Others like Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray, and the Aam Aadmi Party too slammed the government while Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale demanded a judicial probe into the entire episode.

Congress Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Vijay Wadettiwar, and Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut have demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, blaming them for the flare-up.

Ajit Pawar said that sentiments of the people, including the Marathas, are strong on the violent incidents – in which over five-dozen, mostly police personnel, were injured – and the government has taken serious note of it.

While expressing the government’s readiness to hold discussions and hammer out a solution, Ajit Pawar called upon the Marathas to exercise restraint and refrain from violence, stone-pelting, arson or damaging state properties in larger public interest.

“It is our joint responsibility to carry forward the movement which was going on peacefully and democratically till now. We appeal to the office-bearers and activists to come forward to stop the ongoing violence in some parts of the state,” Ajit Pawar pleaded.

Several BJP leaders, including state President Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Fadnavis and other ministers, have pointed fingers at the previous governments of Thackeray and Pawar for failing to resolve the long-pending issues of Maratha reservations in education and jobs.

Fadnavis said the lathi-charge was in relation to the stone-pelting by the protesters on the police, while Raut reiterated that this is a conspiracy to create social disturbances ahead of the elections. (Agency)

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