Saffron sea at Azad Maidan as 9L protestors converge upon Mumbai
After an overwhelming show of strength by the agitating Maratha community on Wednesday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has agreed to their main demands.
The chief minister has extended all the educational concessions that Other Backward Communities (OBC) receive to the Marathas as well. There are 605 streams in which OBCs currently get a concession, and this will be given to the Maratha community as well.
The government has also offered land and announced a grant of Rs 5 crore to build hostels for students from the Maratha community in every district
Mumbai's Azad Maidan turned into a sea of saffron on Wednesday as thousands of people demanding reservations for the Maratha community gathered here in what was their 58th protest in a year.
Wearing saffron caps and carrying flags, the protesters walked down south Mumbai's JJ flyover, which was closed for vehicular traffic, winding their way to the protest venue.
At the Jijamata Udyan, where the Maratha morcha began at 11 am, protesters tore banners put up by the Shiv Sena, stressing that they did not want any "political interference".
Rajya Sabha member Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje told reporters at Azad Maidan he was participating in the march not as a Member of Parliament but as an "ordinary member" of the Maratha community.
Bollywood actor Riteish Deshmukh also voiced his support to the protest march with a tweet.
"Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha," the actor tweeted in Marathi, referring to a popular slogan.
At Azad Maidan, a morcha participant -- dressed like Chhatrapati Shivaji -- was heard extolling the virtues of a "government of the people and for the people", as practised by the Maratha king.
Ishanvi Deshmukh, a three-year-old girl, impressed the gathering with a well-memorised speech seeking reservations for the Maratha community.
Some residents of Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district, where the brutal rape and murder in July 2016 of a 14-year-old girl belonging to the community triggered massive protests across the state, also participated in Wednesday's morcha.