Maratha Kranti Morcha in Mumbai: A solution may not be possible soon
In the past one year, the community groups took out 57 silent protest marches across Maharashtra. On Wednesday, Mumbai saw a massive rally which the organisers said was the final protest march.mumbai Updated: Aug 10, 2017 00:39 IST
For almost a decade, the Maratha community in Maharashtra has been demanding reservation in government jobs and education. The demand was raised periodically and political parties used it conveniently ahead of the elections since 2008. It was in past the one year that the community groups started raising it aggressively as the protests, sparked by a brutal rape and murder in Ahmednagar, led to mobilisation of Marathas.
In the past one year, the community groups took out 57 silent protest marches across Maharashtra. On Wednesday, Mumbai saw a massive rally which the organisers said was the final protest march.
Maratha, a pre-dominantly farmer caste, contributes to more than one-third of Maharashtra’s population and is politically as well as socially influential. However, over the past few years, there is a visible discontent in the community.
Agriculture is becoming less and less profitable occupation for the farmers, which is directly affecting the Marathas. On the other hand, as the reach of education increased, the number of graduates, under-graduates is on the rise, but jobs available from traditional sources such as government and semi-government establishments as well as factories are limited. The competition for each job is tough and Maratha youths think their chances are further reduced by 52% reservation for various reserved categories. As such, many in the Maratha community feel they are lagging behind.
Although a large number of Maratha farmers are financially strong, the number of poor Maratha families is also high. While income from agriculture is inadequate, the educated lot is finding it difficult to get jobs. This has led to discontent in the community.
Although Maharashtra politics was dominated by Maratha leaders since the state was formed in 1960, the younger generation of Marathas laments the leaders who occupied positions in power did not do enough for the community in terms of opportunities in the changing economic scenario.
Socially, the other backward class (OBC) and other communities are becoming stronger in several areas.
The unfortunate brutal rape and murder of a minor girl from the community at Kopardi in Ahmednagar last year led to localized protests. Soon, it turned into statewide protests and Marathas started venting out their anger. This led to more organised silent rallies over the months.
Organisers of the rallies have put forth 22 demands including reservation and dilution of the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Caste and Tribes Act, which has been the cause of friction between the Maratha community and SC/ST communities at several places.
On Wednesday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a few steps in response to the demands of the community groups. He did not give any firm assurance on the main demand of reservation in education and government jobs. However, he announced certain sops that will benefit the community. He also set up a cabinet sub-committee to work with the community groups to ensure reservation, as the issue is now pending in the high court. The previous Congress-NCP government had granted 16% reservation to Marathas, which was put on hold by the HC, in response to a petition filed before it. The Fadnavis government will have to wait till the HC gives its verdict on it.
Following Wednesday’s announcements by Fadnavis, the organisers seemed to be confused on what to do next. The major issues raised by them are unlikely to be resolved immediately. In the next few days, they are likely to announce their course of action. Some of them want to become more aggressive while others would prefer to give some more time to the government.
It remains to be seen if Fadnavis manages to convince them or they create trouble for his government.