Pune: Lakhs of people marched in Pune in one of the biggest rallies held by the Maratha protesters, who had been holding a series silent protests since last month for reservation and justice for the death of teen who had been raped allegedly by some Dalit men.
- Protesters want 16 per cent quotas in jobs and education
- Protesters want to take the demand to the Chief Minister
- A section of protesters advocate political boycott
Shops were closed, major traffic diversions were made for the rallyists, who marched down a 5-kilometer stretch, bearing saffron flags with the image of Shivaji. At its end, they handed a memorandum containing their three demands to the local Collectorate.
The chief demand, the protesters say, is 16 per cent quotas for Marathas in jobs and education, followed by justice for the rape and murder of a teen and amendments to the Prevention of Atrocities on Dalits Act, which Marathas claim, has been misused against them.
The brutal rape and killing of a Maratha teenager allegedly by Dalits in Kopardi has acted as a "unifying force" for the community, feels Alpana Adsul, a professor of IT at a local university.
But while the incident triggered the protests, the chief demand is now reservation.
One of the protesters, Vishal Pangre says he is a qualified engineer, but works in a repair workshop. "I'm an engineer but I clean cars for a living and earn Rs 10,000 a month. It is time for us to tell them that these leaders should do something for us," he said.
The protesters say they now want to take their demands to the Chief Minister, but it is unclear who will represent them. "The Chief Minister should come forward. We have elected him," said Dhananjay Kate.
The protesters insist the demands are non-negotiable and the people say political boycott is an option before the community. "The Marathas will not vote for anyone. Be it any party," said one of the protesters, Ajit Pratap.