Maratha quota stir ends as govt accepts demand | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Maratha quota stir ends as govt accepts demand

By, Mumbai
Jan 28, 2024 04:31 AM IST

The Maharashtra government has accepted the demand of Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange-Patil to extend OBC quota benefits to the community.

The Maharashtra government on Saturday accepted the demand of Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange-Patil to extend OBC quota benefits to the community, a decision that was aimed at mollifying an agitation that was on the brink of bringing hundreds of thousands of protesters to the heart of India’s financial capital.

Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde in Navi Mumbai on Saturday. (Bachchan Kumar/HT Photo)
Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde in Navi Mumbai on Saturday. (Bachchan Kumar/HT Photo)

Jarange-Patil called off his strike after parleys and deliberations between the two sides stretched overnight, which yielded into the Eknath Shinde-led administration announcing that people from the Maratha community will be eligible for reservation in jobs and education admissions if they produce certificates showing they belong to the agrarian Kunbi community and their blood relatives.

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The state government issued a draft of the notification that will formalise the reservation arrangement, but it immediately faced pressure from within, with alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP of the Ajit Pawar faction) questioning the “backdoor entry” of Marathas into the quota pie kept for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and its legal sturdiness.

READ | Jarange-Patil refuses to budge, insists on leading Maratha quota march to Mumbai

Jarange-Patil, who led his agitation to Vashi, Navi Mumbai on the outskirts of the state capital, described the announcements as a “victory” but said that he will return if the government did not ensure the decision stood legal scrutiny.

“Our demand was to issue Kunbi certificates to the blood relatives to Maratha individuals having Kunbi antecedents. An ordinance (draft notification) to this effect has been issued,” Jarange-Patil said, holding up a copy of the draft notification to amend a 2012 state rules on caste certificates. Chief minister Shinde was present at the gathering when the Maratha leader broke his indefinite fast.

“I have said that I will go to Mumbai but for us this is also Mumbai. We have to hold a huge victory rally, bigger than the one held in Jalna last year, for which a place and date will be declared soon,” Jarange-Patil said, clarifying that he had scrapped his plan to come to Mumbai, where he initially planned to continue his indefinite hunger strike at the Azad Maidan.

The CM invoked his farmer’s lineage during his address to the protesters. “I am also a son of a farmer. I know their problems and sufferings. This is the reason I took an oath in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to give reservation to Marathas and that was fulfilled today. I do what I say,” he said and thanked the activist and the Marathas for holding a peaceful march at Mumbai’s doorstep.

READ | Who is Manoj Jarange-Patil, man at forefront of Maratha quota agitation

Kunbi, an agrarian community, falls in the OBC category, and Jarange-Patil, who is spearheading the agitation for reservation for the Marathas since last August, has been demanding Kunbi certificates for all Marathas — which the government accepted.

The decisions include handing those certificates to the estimated 5.7 million Maratha people, allowing their blood relatives and relatives formed out of marriages in the same caste, to seek the same benefits by presenting an affidavit, and for the state government to withdraw cases registered during instances of violence during the agitation.

The Maharashtra government had earlier passed a law to provide quota to them in jobs and education, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2021, stating that there were no grounds to justify breach of the 50% cap on overall reservation.

Shortly after Jarange-Patil’s announcement, celebrations broke out among thousands of supporters, who were part of the activist’s entourage from Antarwali Sarathi and had been camping in Vashi for the last 36 hours.

However, the sticky political questions of caste equations became evident when NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) leaders stayed away from the event when the stir was called off. NCP minister and OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal said the decision to give reservation based on an affidavit would not stand legal scrutiny.

“The provision to issue Kunbi certificates to the blood relatives having Kunbi antecedents will not stand in the court of law. How come caste certificates be issued based on affidavits? It is against the law, if this law applies to all the communities then what will happen,” Bhujbal said, opening a front against his own government.

OBC outfits have called a meeting on Sunday to decide their next course of action.

At the same time, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio, clarified that cases of serious offences resulting from the stir cannot be withdrawn.

Jarange-Patil first held a major agitation last year, when he ended a 17-day hunger strike on September 14 in the presence of Shinde after an assurance that the government would take a call on the matter in 30 days.

He then resumed his hunger strike in October after his 40-day deadline to the state passed even as the administration requested the activist to call off the agitation.

On January 20, he began a march from Antarwali Sarathi in Jalna with an entourage of tens of thousands, with the eventual objective of reaching Azad Maidan in Mumbai on January 26. However, after reaching Vashi on the night of January 25, he gave the state government a day to consider his demands and issue an order.

Overnight on January 26, lawyers from the Maratha community and state government officials hammered into shape the agreement which led to Saturday’s calling off of the agitation.

The notification was issued to make changes to the Maharashtra Scheduled Castes, De-notified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category (Regulation of Issuance and Verification of) Caste Certificate Rules, 2012. The social justice department has sought suggestions and objections from the people on the changes till February 16 and after studying them a final notification will be issued to amend the rules.

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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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