40 Buses Torched, arson in Pune as Maratha quota stir turns violent

The protesters behind vandalism are suspected to be from the Maratha Kranti Morcha, the same group that led the multi-day Maharashtra-wide agitation over reservation for Marathas last week.

Pune, July 30: The protests for reservation in education and jobs for Marathas has once again turned violent, this time in Pune, as agitators torched at least 40 buses and damaged another 50 on Monday afternoon.

The protesters behind vandalism are suspected to be from the Maratha Kranti Morcha, the same group that led the multi-day Maharashtra-wide agitation over reservation for Marathas last week.

The buses were set on fire at the Chakan industrial area on the Pune-Nashik highway on the city’s outskirts. Police had to lob teargas shells and fire in the air to control the mob, officials said.

The sudden violence has affected traffic movement in the area and hundreds of commuters have been left stranded. Some people have taken shelter in government offices in the vicinity. To control the situation, authorities have imposed Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code in the area that prohibits assembly of more than four people. Additional forces have been rushed to the spot.

The violence comes after two men committed suicide over demands for reservation for Marathas earlier in the day. While one man hung himself to death in Nanded, the other jumped in front of a train in Aurangabad.

In Aurangabad, hours after what looked chillingly like a farewell post on Facebook, a 35-year-old man who was part of protests demanding Maratha quota in jobs and education, was found dead on train tracks in Maharashtra. Pramod Jaisinh Hore had allegedly jumped in front of a moving train in Aurangabad late last night.

The father of two had posted a message on his Facebook page and shared a message on WhatsApp on Sunday, saying “one Maratha is leaving”, others should fight. His Facebook post, in Marathi, read: “Chala aajek Maratha jaatoy, pan kahitari Maratha arakshanasathi kara, jaijijau-aapla Pramod Patil (Today one Maratha is leaving… but do something for the Maratha reservation… ).” Sensing something wrong, his friends begged him not to end his life. “Bhau ase naka karu (Brother, don’t do this),” said one friend. “What are you doing,” wrote another friend. Many responded with alarm.

Pramod Hore was preparing for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission exams, the police said. On learning of his suicide, a large number of people gathered outside his house

The violence in Pune and the two suicides come just days after a state-wide agitation was held over the demand for 16 per cent reservation in education institutes and jobs for Maratha community. The agitation was called off after incidents of violence were reported from parts of Mumbai during a bandh.

The Maratha Kranti Morcha had given the call for the bandh demanding an apology from chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for alleging that some members of the community were planning violence.

Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes nearly 30 per cent of the state’s population has been a very contentious issue for some time now.

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