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Why are the Marathas so restive?

 Indian members of the Maratha community in the state of Maharashtra shout slogans during a protest in Mumbai on August 9, 2018.

Indian members of the Maratha community in the state of Maharashtra shout slogans during a protest in Mumbai on August 9, 2018.


What is the trigger?

In July, while the monsoon session of the legislature was on, a group of Maratha protesters launched a sit-in against the BJP government for not fulfilling the promises made to the community, including 16% reservation.

The issue, however, spilled outside the Assembly, when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis cancelled his visit to Pandharpur for the Ashadhi Ekadashi puja. He cited police reports that pointed to the possibility of snakes being released in the crowd. It enraged the community which accused him of false allegations and announced a State-wide protest and bandhs. The Marathas also wanted clarity on the Chief Minister’s statement that of the new recruitment for 72,000 posts, 16% would be reserved for the community.

What did the government do?

The bandh was marked by violence in Aurangabad, Navi Mumbai and the Chakan industrial area near Pune, with Maratha leaders alleging infiltration of anti-social elements. Eight Maratha youths committed suicide. Pressure from the community resulted in MLAs from the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the NCP offering to resign. The government finally announced a stay on the recruitment. It sought time till November to resolve the issue.

Why raise the demand now?

The community feels the government is dragging its feet on reservation. The struggle for special treatment has been going on for the past few years. On November 14, 2014, the Bombay High Court stayed the Maratha reservation granted by the Congress-NCP government. It said the State had crossed the 50% limit capped by the Supreme Court and that the Mandal Commission (1980), the National Commission for Backward Classes (2000) and the Bapat Commission (2008) had concluded that the Marathas were a socially advanced community. The Supreme Court refused to stay the order.

In January 2015, the State government decided to submit additional information to the court in support of Maratha reservation. On July 13, 2016, the rape and murder of a minor Maratha girl fuelled the community’s demands. Till 2017, over 58 massive silent Maratha morchas were organised across the State.

To make its case stronger in court, in November 2017, Justice Maroti Gaikwad (retd.) was appointed as the head of the State Backward Class Commission. It is compiling a report to ascertain the economic and social backwardness of the community.

The report will be based on the findings of a sample survey conducted in five villages in every district. It is yet to be submitted to the government. The case is pending in the High Court. Till then, no decision on reservation can be taken.

Is it justified?

In 2008, the State Backward Class Commission, headed by Justice R.M. Bapat (retd.), did not endorse Maratha reservation, voicing opinion against the inclusion of the community in the OBC category as they were not “socially backward.” His report was neither accepted nor rejected by the State government. As the Maratha coordination committee launched a State-wide campaign called ‘Deta ki Jata’ (Are you giving or going back?), with the demand for reservation from 2011, the then Congress-NCP government, headed by Prithviraj Chavan, appointed a high-powered committee under Industries Minister Narayan Rane to submit a case to grant reservation for the Marathas. The report was submitted in June 2013. A year later, the Congress-NCP government cleared 16% reservation for the Marathas.

What lies ahead?

Mr. Fadnavis has promised to resolve the issue. A special legislative session will be called after the report of the Backward Class Commission, and the reservation is likely to be extended.

Till then, protests are likely to continue. With elections approaching, all political parties are attempting to keep Marathas — politically one of the strongest contingents — happy. As for the Marathas, with no clear leader, cracks are visible.

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 1:54:55 am |