For Marathas, Jarange-Patil is now a superhero | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

For Marathas, Jarange-Patil is now a superhero

Jan 28, 2024 05:41 AM IST

Before launching the third leg of his agitation, Jarange-Patil had held two hunger strikes last year – the first one on August 29 and the second on October 25.

MUMBAI: “We have succeeded in getting justice for the Maratha community,” exulted a visibly happy Manoj Jarange-Patil, as he called off his march to Mumbai on Saturday. The 41-year-old farmer-turned-activist from Jalna has emerged as the new hero of the Maratha community after he forced the Maharashtra government to accept his demand that Marathas with Kunbi antecedents be included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category for reservation in government jobs and education. A large section of Marathas supporting him, especially youths, firmly believe that he put his life on the line to get them their rights.

Jarange-Patil’s adroitness in getting the government to accept his demands has earned him a huge following in the community.(Raju Shinde/ HT Photo)
Jarange-Patil’s adroitness in getting the government to accept his demands has earned him a huge following in the community.(Raju Shinde/ HT Photo)

Before launching the third phase of his agitation with Chalo Mumbai, Jarange-Patil had held two hunger strikes last year. The first one, begun on August 29, stretched for 17 days while the second one, which started on October 25, went on for nine days. Worried about the fallout of the agitation, CM Eknath Shinde turned up, glass of juice in hand, to break the activist’s first fast on September 14.

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Also read: Decoding the Maratha claim for reservations

After being convinced by a delegation that comprised retired judges M G Gaikwad and Sunil Shukre and four ministers—Uday Samant, Dhananjay Munde, Sandipan Bhumare and Atul Save—Jarange-Patil called off his second hunger strike on November 2, giving two months to the government to fulfil its promise of giving Kunbi certificates through a special drive.

On Saturday, chief minister Shinde reached Vashi in Navi Mumbai to once again break Jarange-Patil’s fast with a glass of juice. He handed him a copy of a draft notification which grants Kunbi certificates to the 57 lakh Marathas with Kunbi antecedents to enable them to avail of reservation benefits in the OBC category. Not just that, the notification grants reservation to the Kunbi certificate-holders’ blood relatives and relatives formed out of marriages in the same caste if they file affidavits confirming the relations.

This time, Shinde was not just personally present to break the activist’s hunger strike but also praised him to the high skies. “I felicitate the warrior (sangharsh yoddha) Manoj Jarange-Patil who struggled for the Maratha community,” he eulogised. Not surprisingly, there was a profusion of placards on Saturday at the protest site at Vashi, declaring Jarange-Patil God. “We have not seen God with our eyes but you are no less than a God,” they said.

Jarange-Patil’s adroitness in getting the government to accept his demands has earned him a huge following in the community. That is the major reason tens of thousands of people chose to press the pause button on their normal life and sacrifice their daily bread to march towards Mumbai in response to the call by the activist, who was unknown before a lathi charge on his followers in Jalna on September 1 last year. Their adoration was more than evident during the march when he could be seen meeting people who wanted to take his blessings or wave a lit lamp in front of (a ritual called aukshan) or take selfies.

The Maratha activist hails originally from Beed district and settled in Shahgad in Jalna district after marriage. He joined the movement for Maratha reservation about 15 years ago, participating in several marches and protests, and even sold 2.5 acres of his four acres of agricultural land to fund his daily needs. His first 12-day hunger strike was held in January 2021, with the entire village of Sasht-Pimpalgaon in Jalna district participating in it. He then held a three-month agitation in the same village where hundreds of people joined him. The then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray invited him for a meeting in Mumbai, after which he withdrew his protest.

However, there are a few Maratha activists who believe that the march to Mumbai has not wrought anything substantial for the community. “Today’s decision by the government is not really going to bring in any big change for the community, as there was no decision taken to incorporate Marathas in the OBC community,” said Vinod Patil, a Maratha activist who has been fighting in the Bombay high court and Supreme Court. “I will fight for those who do not have records of their Kunbi antecedents.”

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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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