First to get Kunbi certificate, farmer burns it seeking quota benefit for community - Hindustan Times
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First to get Kunbi certificate, farmer burns it seeking quota benefit for community

Nov 04, 2023 05:04 AM IST

Sumit Bharat Mane, who was the first from Marathwada to get Kunbi certificate, burnt the document and demanded quota cover for all Marathas

Pune: For five years, Sumit Bharat Mane struggled to prove himself Kunbi in order to avail reservation benefits. However, after receiving the caste certificate, the first from Marathwada, on Wednesday, the 30-year-old farmer burnt the document and demanded quota cover for all Marathas.

Sumit Bharat Mane (R), who was the first from Marathwada to get Kunbi certificate, burnt the document and demanded quota cover for all Marathas. (HT)
Sumit Bharat Mane (R), who was the first from Marathwada to get Kunbi certificate, burnt the document and demanded quota cover for all Marathas. (HT)

A native of Kari village in Dharashiv district (formerly Osmanabad), Mane knocked on the doors of many offices to get documents before the committee led by Justice Sandeep Shinde expedited the process of issuing certificates.

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However, within hours, Mane joined the pro-quota protestors and publicly burnt the certificate that would have secured him job in government department or get his children admission in school or college as per the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category reservation.

“As far as Dharashiv district is concerned, only 459 Kunbi proofs were recovered after scrutinising the number of documents, which means only 459 families will get the certificate. Then what about other Marathas? Since last few years we are demanding complete reservation for all Marathas and for which government is not ready. Hence, to condemn the government stand I burnt my certificate and declined to take any benefit,” he said.

Sachin Ombase, Dharashiv district collector, who handed Mane the Kunbi certificate, said that his application for the caste certificate was verified from historical land documents dating back to the pre-1967 era. The certificate establishes an individual’s affiliation with the Kunbis, a sub-caste within Marathas, mostly associated with agriculture activities.

Mane’s struggle to obtain the certificate began in 2018 when Kari village was part of the Solapur district. On August 1, 2019, a government order changed the status of his village and it came under Dharashiv district.

According to Mane, due to change of district, lack of information and mechanism to issue such certificates at government level mainly due to laxity of staff, obtaining the certificate almost become impossible. The process to issue certificates was in practice since issuance of government resolution in 1967.

“In 2012-13, when I passed the Higher Secondary Board exam, father forced me to complete graduation as there was nothing much left in farming and Barshi region was facing a back-to-back drought,” Mane said.

At that time, Mane, for the first time, approached the Barshi tehsil office to cross-check his ancestral documents and get Kunbi status to get admission under the OBC category.

Failing to get the caste certificate, Mane was left with no option but to take admission to Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA) from the open category.

“After the completion of two semesters, I decided to quit studies as I felt my father could not bear fees for my education and I did not want to push him in debt trap. I started helping father in our two-acre farm,” Mane recalled.

In 2018, Mane again began collecting documents as he was preparing for police recruitment exam for the post of constabulary.

According to Mane, the change of district forced him to visit Barshi tehsil in Solapur district and seek the old district collectorate records. “Every time, officers were not keen to open the old record rooms at the tehsil office for the document that could have helped change my fate.”

Mane remembers he collected documents like 7/12 extract of his father, grandfather, death-birth certificates of his grandfather, grandmother, school certificates from the Barshi tehsil.

However, he still failed to establish his Kunbi link with any documents due to government apathy and unavailability of other documents.

It was only last month that Mane received a call from the talathi office informing him that the Kunbi records of his family were ascertained through “Gaon Namuna 14” (village land records).

The officer on the phone call asked Mane to visit the office to verify the documents. Mane rushed to the talathi office of Kari village and got a copy of “Gaon Namuna 14”. With the help of his father, he confirmed that the name mentioned in those documents are his great grandfather.

Mane said, “I got a call last month and within days, the same government that prolonged the process, issued me the certificate. But what’s the use now. If I had gotten a Kunbi caste certificate at that time, I might have completed my education and got a good job. My life could have changed completely.”

After Mane, hundreds of others from Marathwada’s eight districts received similar documents, thanks to the Shinde committee.

The five-member committee was tasked with scrutinising historical records to confirm the eligibility of individuals for Kunbi caste certificates. The committee examined a staggering 1.73 crore documents from Nizam-era (Pre-1967 period) in in the Maratahwada region, and successfully identified over 11,000 individuals who qualified for Kunbi caste certificates.

Accordingly, in Dharashiv district, collector Ombase directed various departments and village-level authorities to verify the historical registrations. The relevant documents have been uploaded on the district collector’s website for ease of access. Some departments are yet to upload their documents, a process that is expected to be completed within the next few days, said Ombase.

“The interested parties will be required to read and verify these documents in their respective villages and present their ancestral and genealogical records to obtain the Kunbi caste certificates. The process for obtaining these certificates is entirely online and can be initiated through government service centres or common service centres (CSCs). Our aim is to issue Kunbi caste certificates to all eligible individuals within 8 to 10 days,” said Ombase.

Mane’s act to burn the certificate was symbolic to highlight the plight of the community from Marathwada that struggled for years to get the Kunbi status.

“I am happy to be the first person from the Marathwada region to get the Kunbi certificate, but this fight is not only for my family; the whole Maratha community in the state needs to get quota benefits,” he said.

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