Marathwada simmers as Jarange-Patil, Hake cross swords

Laxman Hake’s ongoing protest is in direct response to Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil’s insistence on the Marathas getting reservations under the OBC Kunbi category

Updated - June 22, 2024 02:41 am IST

Published - June 21, 2024 09:51 pm IST - Pune

Manoj Jarange Patil during a Maratha reservation rally.

Manoj Jarange Patil during a Maratha reservation rally. | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

Maharashtra’s Marathwada region seethed with caste tensions yet again on June 21 as other backward class (OBC) activist Laxman Hake, on an indefinite hunger strike, traded bitter barbs with Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil over the Maratha reservation and OBC counter-protest issue even as Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis and CM Eknath Shinde’s Mahayuti government strove to defuse tensions between the two castes.

While Mr. Fadnavis said the government did not want “a Marathas versus OBC face-off” and wanted to preclude caste tensions, Mr. Hake refused to call off his fast which entered its ninth day in Jalna’s Wadigodri village today, reiterating that the State government give a written assurance that it would not accommodate Maratha community interests at the cost of harming OBC reservation.

The OBC community was restive in several villages in Beed, Nanded, and Jalna districts, staging roadblocks and burning tyres at a number of points while expressing their support for Mr. Hake’s fast.

Mr. Hake’s ongoing protest is in direct response to Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil’s insistence on the Marathas getting reservations via inclusion under the OBC Kunbi category.

In a litany of allegations against the government, Mr. Hake alleged that OBC certificates being issued to Maratha community members whose family records proved them to have been Kunbis were “bogus”.

He demanded a White Paper on the issue and the scrapping of 54 lakh such certificates issued to the Maratha community while urging the State government to come clear on its proposed implementation of the draft notification pertaining to blood relatives (translated as ‘sage soyare’ in Marathi) of those Marathas for whom Kunbi OBC records had been found.

Throwing down the gauntlet to Mr. Jarange-Patil, Mr. Hake, whose agitation has been backed by prominent OBC politicos in the State cutting across party lines, said, “Jarange, you do not have the stature to argue with me on reservation. Someone needs to educate and teach him about policy. He knows nothing about the Mandal Commission.”

Mr. Hake further said that the OBC community had silently stood by during Mr. Jarange-Patil’s agitation last year but that it would no longer tolerate it anymore after the Maratha quota activist systematically targeted and defamed OBC leaders and his actions led to Maratha quota supporters torching several OBC establishments in Beed district.

Dubbing Mr. Jarange-Patil a “casteist” who only spoke for the interests of s single community (the Maratha), Mr. Hake said that OBC leaders spoke for the welfare of 492 OBC castes and micro-castes.

“People are under the wrong impression that the number of OBCs are more in Marathwada. The truth is if the OBCs and the Vimukta Jati & Nomadic Tribes (VJNT)s in western Maharashtra unite, then there is no stopping us,” the activist said.

In a stinging riposte, Mr. Jarange-Patil accused Mr. Hake of being an ‘agent’ of his bête noire, OBC leader and Maharashtra Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and vowed to destroy the NCP leader’s political career.

“It is clear how casteist Laxman Hake really is. They [OBC leaders] are out to scrap our original Maratha reservation awarded by the government. I warn the Shinde government that if they try and commit injustice towards the Maratha community, then we will put their leaders in their proper places. OBC leaders are selfish but they forget that the Marathas are united now,” Mr. Jarange-Patil said, hinting at ominous consequences for Mahayuti leaders in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly election.

Taking aim at Mr. Bhujbal, Mr. Jarange-Patil singled the Yeola legislator for heightening social tensions between the OBCs and the Marathas.

“When we try to fight for our rights, we are labelled ‘casteist’. When the OBCs agitate, it is termed as a peaceful demonstration. It is this man from Yeola who is doing all this. He is inflaming relations between Marathas and OBCs. He is doing it for political mileage,” Mr. Bhujbal said.

Earlier today, a government delegation comprising of ministers Uday Samant, Girish Mahajan, Gopichand Padalkar, Sandipan Bhumre and Atul Save met with Mr. Hake and his associate Navnath Waghmare, who too, is on a hunger strike along with Hake.

Mr. Samant said that CM Eknath Shinde had a phone conversation with Mr. Hake wherein the latter was assured that the ruling Mahayuti would safeguard OBC reservation.

Likewise, a delegation of OBC leaders which included Mr. Bhujbal, Prakash Shendge, Pankaja Munde and others met with CM Shinde and Deputy CMs Mr. Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar in Mumbai today evening to address OBC community concerns.

Mr. Bhujbal stressed on the need to end Mr. Hake’s hunger strike and call for an all-party meeting to resolve the matter, while also urging the State government to constitute an OBC sub-committee on the issue.

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