The demand for Maratha reservation dates back to the 1980s, but picked up pace in 2008 with the late chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and NCP chief Sharad Pawar lending tacit support to this demand made by their respective parties’ Maratha legislators ahead of the 2009 polls
The Maratha silent protests, however, going on currently across the state, especially Marathwada, were triggered by the brutal rape and murder of a minor girl from the community, in Ahmednagar. The three accused in this case are Dalits
Nearly 50 Maratha organisations have come together to support these rallies now. The movement began with nine such organisations with one of the first big rallies being held in Aurangabad on August 10
While the agitators have demanded a death sentence for the accused, their central demands also include long-pending reservation for the community in the employment and education sectors, a review of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act (PAA) 1989, government jobs for anyone from families of farmers who committed suicides in the past 10 years, implementation of the Dr Swaminathan report, which addressed the causes of farmers’ distress and the rise in farmer suicides, and recommended addressing them through a holistic national policy for farmers. The protesters also want restructuring of the Annasaheb Patil Mahamandal, a public sector unit that gives grants to entrepreneurs and small businessmen from the community
Over the past one month, 20 districts have seen silent protests with every protest garnering more crowds. All eight districts in Marathwada have held these protests that are led by women, students, followed by professionals like lawyers, doctors and then the rest. Politicians from all parties have participated in these walks, but have not been allowed to lead them. Some of the big protests were held in Latur, Aurangabad, Pune, Navi Mumbai and Solapur. The protests are guided and promoted in a big way through social media, including WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube
The Maratha community has also planned a rally in Delhi with participation from various parts of the north India. The march is expected to take place at India Gate in the second week of October
The protest rallies will culminate with a showstopper rally in Mumbai, where protesters say will attract a crowd of 50 lakh plus, although this figure seems exaggerated. The decision on when this rally will be held will be taken on September 30.