As the Maratha community's massive show of strength gets underway this morning at Byculla, participants hold out hope of change
Protesters walk along JJ Flyover from Byculla this morning. Pic /Suresh Karkera
Slogans of Maratha pride -- Ek Maratha, lakh Maratha -- rent the air as lakhs of participants gathered for the 58th and final Maratha Kranti Morcha this morning. The march began at 11 am from Jijamata Udyan and was expected to culminate at Azad Maidan at 5 pm. Traffic diversions were to stay in place till 6 pm.
The Marathas take out their rally near Richardson and Cruddas Mills at Byculla. Pic /Suresh Karkera
The agitation stayed true to its apolitical spirit and refused overtures from the BJP as well as the Shiv Sena.
Organisers stopped Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar from joining them at Azad Maidan in the morning. Shelar, however, claimed that he went to express his support but wasn't turned away. At Byculla, the participants tore down a banner put up Shiv Sena.
The protesters pass over the Byculla bridge this morning. Pic/ Rane
Even though foolproof security measures were in place, a number of volunteers were deputed to various locations. Many of them were deployed at Byculla railway station to guide participants. The route from Byculla station to the S-bridge road in Byculla East was reserved for ambulances.
Ratnakar Sawant, one of the volunteers, said the aim was to have an incident-free protest. "We don't want to inconvenience anybody. Volunteers are posted at several locations to ensure that the mocha is conducted smoothly."
Police personnel set up barricades near CSMT last night
Although slogans were initially raised as the crowds began to gather, the organisers reminded them via public address systems that the protest was silent one, just like the previous 57 marches.
Although no political party's support was allowed, Congress leader Nitesh Rane, as well as NCP's Jayant Patil and Sanjeev Naik, joined as participants. Many other political leaders waited at Azad Maidan to join.
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