Maratha groups on Wednesday held two massive silent marches in Navi Mumbai and Solapur in continuing protest against the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Maratha girl in July.
The activists, holding placards and banners, demanded capital punishment for the guilty; reservations in education and government jobs for Marathas; and amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in order to stop its “misuse against Marathas.” The Act grants SCs/STs legal protection against atrocities but Marathas claim they are being targeted with trumped up cases.
All three suspects arrested in the case are Dalits.
Police said the Navi Mumbai march attracted 100,000 people. Organizers put the number at twice that. Organizers also claimed the Solapur march drew many more people than the Navi Mumbai one.
“A good number of people have come from Mumbai’s hinterlands and Raigad district. People have been brought in by buses from outside,” said a police officer requesting anonymity.
Maratha youngsters wearing black T-shirts and holding saffron flags made up the bulk of the protesters. A few Bharatiya Janata Party and Nationalist Congress Party legislators also turned up but they said they were participating as Marathas and not politicians.
An activist of the Sakal Maratha Samaj, which has spearheaded most of these protests that began on 9 August, said the last protest march will be held in Mumbai city just before Diwali.