Mumbai, Aug 8: The Maharashtra government, police, BMC and other agencies are all set for a mammoth Maratha ‘mook’ (silent) procession that will be taken out on Wednesday, officials said.
While the authorities anticipate participation of between 500,000-800,000 Marathas from across the state, the organisers are optimistic the figure could be more than three million.
Senior Congress leader Narayan Rane told media persons that the procession, starting at 11 a.m. from Byculla, will be peaceful and orderly, silent, have no political speeches and will end at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai by 5 p.m.
After the procession, a delegation will call on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and submit a memorandum of our demands. The main is reservations for the Maratha community in jobs and education, besides others, he said.
The Marathas have started trooping into Mumbai since early Tuesday from all over Maharashtra to take part in the morcha, 58th in the series of processions being held in different parts of the state since August 9, 2016.
They have been reaching the state capital by trains, private vehicles, trucks, tempos and even two-wheelers, while waving Maratha flags and sporting bright orange turbans.
The Mumbai Police has geared up with over 7,000 personnel, including commandos, armed police, plainclothes officers assigned for providing security during the procession.
There will massive traffic diversions, important roads either closed or made one-way, arterial roads opened, etc, to ensure smooth passage for the procession participants, said Deputy Commissioner of Police Rashmi Karandkiar.
This is expected to result in a chaotic situation on the roads and pressurize the overburdened suburban train network servicing the city, and the organisers have started appealing to people not to step out except for emergencies.
Police plan to make big use of the social media like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, FM radios and other media to provide updates on traffic to the millions of office-goers who may be affected in the morning and evening peak hours.
Education Minister Vinod Tawde announced that all schools in south Mumbai would remain shut on Wednesday to ensure students are not inconvenienced during the procession.
The procession, termed as Storm of Marathas from all over the state by the organisers, strategically comes during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Maharashtra legislature, proving a major challenge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine.
The organisers have urged the participants to follow the code of conduct – silent march, no sloganeering or speeches, no banners or placards except the official logo of the umbrella organisation, Maratha Kranti Morcha, to maintain strict cleanliness and refrain from inconveniencing the general public.
The procession has secured support from the Maratha Qaumi Ittehad in Pakistan’s Balochistan region which issued a statement Tuesday, besides the Mumbai Dabbawalas and Left parties.
Besides the major demands for reservations in education and employment, the Marathas are demanding minimum support prices for farm produce, and amendment to the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which they claim is being misused against the community, especially in the wake of the Kopardi (Ahmednagar) gang-rape incident of August 2016.