Mumbai: Road traffic was disrupted and schools remained shut in Maharashtra, while Internet services were suspended in Pune district during the state-wide bandh called by Maratha outfits on Thursday in support of their demand for reservation.
The agitation, which began on a relatively peaceful note in the morning, turned violent in the afternoon. A police car and two private vehicles were torched in Aurangabad, and the police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the mob.
While in Pune agitators attacked the gate and a cabin at the district collector's office and damaged some light bulbs in the premises, protesters threw stones at the office of ex-chief minister Ashok Chavan-controlled newspaper Satyaprabha in Nanded and broke its window panes, police said. Stones were also allegedly pelted at the office of another Marathi daily 'Pudhari', located in the same area, they said.
Some protestors also entered offices of IT companies located at Hinjewadi and Kothrud in Pune. They pelted stones, vandalized the premises and asked the employees to leave.
In Latur, Congress MLA Trimbakrao Bhise faced the ire of protesters, who surrounded him and pushed him away, police said.
Despite an appeal from Maratha community leaders to observe the bandh peacefully, police said protesters blocked roads and burnt tyres in some places.
Two groups of protesters clashed at Kranti Chowk in Aurangabad district when someone allegedly raised slogans against Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, an official said.
A group led by Sena district chief Ambadas Danve objected to the slogans, following which members of both sides beat up each other, he said. "One person was injured in the incident, but the situation was brought under control. We separated the two groups and dispersed them," the police official said.
Internet services were suspended in seven rural tehsils of Pune district to prevent rumour-mongering, SP Sandip Patil said.
Agitators held a sit-in outside the residence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Pune's Baramati tehsil, and were joined by his nephew Ajit Pawar in support of the demand for quota in government jobs and education.
Protesters stopped buses and other vehicles in Latur, Jalna, Solapur and Buldhana districts. They blocked the Madha-Shetfal road, which is connected to NH 9 (Pune-Hyderabad) in Solapur district, officials said.
Shiv Sena MLA from Kolhapur, Prakash Abitkar, who was not allowed to enter the Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai in support of the quota demand, sat outside the gate of the legislature complex in protest.
The call for band was given by Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, but it excluded Navi Mumbai which had witnessed large-scale violence last month during protests by the community.
Amol Jadhavrao, a leader of Sakal Maratha Samaj, had said on Wednesday that they would hold a peaceful protest from 8 am to 6 pm. Another Maratha faction had given a call to hold a sit-in outside the Mumbai suburban district collector's office.
The authorities had ordered closure of schools and colleges in some cities, including Pune, fearing violence.
Security was stepped up in Navi Mumbai, with deployment of city police personnel along with a company of Rapid Action Force and Reserve Police Force.
Public buses and local trains were running normal in the town. Heavy security was deployed on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and Mumbai-Goa Highway near Kalamboli, a police official said.
Even though Maratha groups excluded essential services from the purview of the bandh, supply of vegetables was affected in some parts of the state, including Mumbai, APMC officials said.
A vegetable seller in Mumbai's Dadar area said the 'bandh' was not forced on them, but they had voluntarily shut down business for the day in support of the cause. Protesters took out silent marches in Mumbai's Ghatkopar suburb and in Thane district.
State-run public transport services have been partially suspended in Osmanabad and Buldhana districts, as protesters had targeted buses in the previous round of stir last month.
The bandh call was given despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' assurance that his government was working on providing quota to Marathas in government jobs and education institutes, one that is legally sustainable. He had sought time till November to take steps in this regard.
The Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state's population, have been demanding 16 per cent quota. They had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands, prominent among them being that of reservation.
The agitation, however, turned violent after a 27-year-old protester jumped to his death in Godavari River near Aurangabad on July 23. A number of places, especially Koparkhairane and Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai, had witnessed violence during the Maratha quota stir late last month.