The agitation by Marathas for job quota turned severe as protesters resorted to violence and arson at separate places in Maharashtra on Monday.
Four police officials were injured in stone pelting, while nearly 70 vehicles, including state and civic-run buses and those of police, were damaged or torched during the violence in Chakan near Pune, a senior police officer said.
Inspector General of Police (Kolhapur Range) Vishwas Nangare Patil told that 30 vehicles, mostly buses of the state transport undertaking and PMPML (Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd), were torched by the agitators, while around 40 other vehicles, including private ones, were vandalised.
"The agitators torched vehicles of police outside the Chakan police station and pelted stone. However, police personnel dispersed the mob.
"Four police officials, including a senior inspector and Deputy Superintendent of Police Ganpat Madgulkar, sustained injuries in the stone pelting," said Patil.
In nearby Rajgurunagar town, protesters, numbering 3,000 to 4,000, gathered outside the main police station, and pelted stones, but the police force successfully dispersed them, the IGP said.
The police fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathicharge at several places to disperse the mob.
Patil said since protests were simultaneously taking place at several places in Pune district, the police force had to spread out.
"We are trying to bring the situation under control," he added.
Due to the violence at Chakan, the traffic on the Pune -Nashik road was crippled. Several Nashik as well as Pune- bound buses were cancelled due to the stir, officials said.
DySP Madgulkar said he was escorting a fire tender when a mob started pelting stone at the police van.
"While tackling the stone pelting mob, I received injuries in my leg," said Madgulkar, who is undergoing treatment at the hospital.
Quick Response Teams have been moved to the violence- affected area, the police said.
Some Maratha organisations had given a call for a bandh today in the Chakan area and a rally was taken out.
Protesters clashed with the police in Solapur district, south-western Maharashtra, during a bandh on the issue.
The Solapur bandh call was given by prominent Maratha organisations, including the Maratha Kranti Morcha and Sakal Maratha Samaj.The police cane-charged protesters after they pelted shops and some vehicles with stones, an official said.
Maratha outfits said a mega rally will be held in Mumbai on August 9 in support of their quota demand.
"We will hold a mega rally in Mumbai on August 9, August Kranti Din. We want to show our strength and endurance to the government," Maratha Kranti Morcha leader Vinod Pokharkar said.
Meanwhile, a 35-year-old man allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a moving train in Aurangabad in central Maharashtra over the Maratha quota demand, police said.
The man, Pramod Jaising Hore, had posted a message on his Facebook page and shared a message on WhatsApp on Sunday, saying he would be ending his life in support of the quota demand, Mukundwadi police station's Senior Inspector Natha Jadhav told PTI.
Hore allegedly jumped before the running train in the Mukundwadi area late last night, he said.
He became to fourth person to lose life during the agitation over the last one week.
The politically-influential community, constituting around 30 per cent of the state's population, has been agitating to press their demand for reservation in jobs and education.In Aurangabad, after learning about Hore's suicide, a large number of people gathered outside his house.
His family members said they will not take possession of the body till the state government takes a final decision on the issue of reservation, over which the Maratha community has been agitating.
Pro-reservation activists staged a 'rasta roko' (road blockade) on the Jalna Road.
Prior to this, two men had committed suicide over demand for the quota last week, while another died during violence by the agitationists.
The community had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands, prominent among them being that of reservation.
Meanwhile, a Congress delegation on Monday met Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao to submit their letter and requesting him to intervene in the matter of Maratha Reservation and ask the state government to expedite its efforts for providing 16 per cent reservation to Maratha community.
Lashing out at the Devendra Fadnavis government, the Congress party said that the BJP-led government in Maharashtra is "dilly-dallying" on the issue of reservations for the Maratha community in jobs and education.
A delegation led by state Congress chief Ashok Chavan met Rao on Monday afternoon and asked him to instruct the state government to immediately withdraw cases filed against "innocent" agitators during the recent Maratha quota protests.
In a memorandum to the Governor, the party said the government would be to blame if the law and order situation in deteriorates if a decision on the quota issue is not announced immediately.
The delegation included Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
"The position of the BJP and the Shiv Sena over quota is vague. Therefore, no concrete decision has been taken on reservations to Marathas, Muslim, Dhangar, Mahadev Koli and Lingayat communities. The government wants to keep these issues pending," the memorandum said.
The wave of protests by Maratha groups has put the Fadnavis government in a tight spot. While the BJP has been stressing that the state government is committed to honour the demands of the Maratha community, the Opposition has accused CM Fadnavis doing nothing and letting the situation go out of control.