MUMBAI, India (AP) — Tens of thousands of people waving saffron flags marched through Mumbai on Wednesday demanding quotas in government jobs and education for the underprivileged Maratha community in western India.
The marchers covered a distance of more than five kilometers (3 miles) silently with no speeches or slogans raised. The community accounts for nearly 35 percent of western Maharashtra state's 123 million people.
India's Constitution includes a system of affirmative action for people in the lowest castes to help them overcome discrimination. The government has expanded the number of groups qualifying for quotas.
India's Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that job quotas could not exceed 50 percent. However, some states have exceeded the limit and such cases are under litigation in the top court.
Some businesses and schools were shut in view of the big march in south Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital. Cars, buses and trucks were diverted from the march route to avoid a traffic chaos.
Virendra Pawar, a spokesman for the Maratha Kranti Morcha, or Maratha Revolutionary Front, said that the protesters were also demanding higher prices for farm produce and loan waivers for poor farmers.
The Front was launched last year by a group of Maratha organizations to protest the alleged rape and killing of a teenage Maratha girl in Ahmednagar district of the state. It later took on other causes.