Thousands of youngsters, mostly in their 20s , are the face of the silent protests of the Maratha community over the demand for reservation and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Maratha girl by three Dalit youths.
The faceless volunteers, who are otherwise the strength of the rallies, may, however, become its weakness, as the government appeals for dialogue. “The organisers do not want to engage in a dialogue with the government because they are not sure who among them will lead the discussion,” said Prakash Pawar, professor of political science at Shivaji University. “The Maratha outfits would not like seeing volunteers getting involved in the discussion, as it may dilute their position.”
The arrangement and the scale of these rallies have raised questions over the tacit backing they are receiving. Maratha outfits such as Sambhaji Brigade and Maratha Seva Sangh, which share proximity with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and are responsible for organizing these rallies, maintain the protests were spontaneous, with social media contributing to the massive participation.
After the Kopardi rape, the NCP has been trying to cash in on the simmering anger in the community. “NCP president Sharad Pawar‘s visit to Kopardi sent out a message that the NCP was backing the Marathas,” said a political observer. “At the moment, political forces are shying away from coming forward. Once it reaches a particular point, parties will try and turn it in their favour,” said Pawar