With the silent Maratha morchas rattling the administration, the Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBC) have decided to organise a counter-protest in the form of a mega morcha in the third week of January.
The protest march will be held from Dadar to Azad Maidan. Sources said Muslims too are being roped in to participate. The communities will ask the government not to tinker with the Atrocities Act. They will also demand that the Marathas not be included in the OBC list.
Anandraj Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and head of the Republican Sena said the protest march was planned as a message to the government.
He said the morcha will ask the government not to bow to the unjust demands of the Marathas. “We are against any amendments to the Atrocities act as it acts as a cushion for Dalits against attacks by other castes,” said Anandraj.
He termed the Maratha morchas “unfortunate”. “It is sad that a progressive state such as Maharashtra is witnessing such caste-based protests,” he added.
Kunbi Samaj leader Avinash Lad too said the inclusion of Marathas in the OBC reservation list will be met with resistance. “If the Maratha community is included in the OBC list, they will snatch all the opportunities meant for other communities and we will be left with nothing. Let the government create a special category for them,” he said.
The timing of the protests is vital as it comes against the backdrop of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections to be held in February. The Dalits and OBCs make up a large percentage of voters and no party can afford to ignore them. The Marathas have been in agitation mode since the Kopardi incident, in which a minor belonging to this dominant community was allegedly raped and killed by Dalits in July.
Apart from reservation, the community is also demanding amendments to the controversial Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on the grounds that it is being blatantly misused by Dalits to settle personal scores.