At the risk of being alienated by their vote-bank, political leaders belonging to the community are coming out in open to support the demands made during silent protests rallies by Marathas at various places in the state even as their parties have so far shied away from taking a stand.
On Wednesday, senior congress member and the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Rajya Sabha MP Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje supported the demands made by the Maratha community which include repealing of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Both the leaders while justifying the mobilisation of the community at a massive scale said they would participate in the rally to be held at Ahmednagar on Friday.
“I am a part of Maratha community and their demands are mine. I am going to participate in rallies in next the few days,” said Sambhaji Raje, who was nominated to Rajya Sabha after BJP recommended his name for the post.
Besides Patil and Sambhaji Raje, Lok Sabha member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) from Satara Udayanraje Bhosale has also extended his support to the demands made by the Marathas by promising to participate in one such march at Satara on October 3. Bhosale, also a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji like Sambhaji Raje, challenged the party leadership saying the Atrocity Act should be scrapped.
Bhosale’s remarks were in contrast with NCP president Sharad Pawar who said there is no need to repeal the Act. “The Atrocities Act should be scrapped as 90 % of the cases registered under the Act are bogus,” Bhosale said. The NCP leader also reprimanded his party chief saying, “Whatever you are today is only because of the community who can disown you if you ignore their plight.”
Pawar, has, in the past flip-flopped on the issue with initially supporting the demand placed by the community members but later claiming that he never said the Atrocities Act should be repealed.
What is the Prevention of Atrocities Act?
Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 was enacted by the Parliament to prevent the atrocities against Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes.
Members from upper caste Maratha community have alleged that dalits in Maharashtra have misused the Act and filed false cases against their community members. The Kopardi rape incident in which a minor Maratha girl was allegedly raped by three Dalit youths, has acted as the trigger to demand the repealing of the Atrocities Act. Several dalit leaders including Ramdas Athavale have opposed scrapping of the Act.