Impasse over Dhangar quota: Hunger strike set to continue
Shinde urged the agitators to call off the hunger strike until a final decision was taken. However, community leaders are unwilling to wait. “For how many years should we wait to get our rights? said Balasaheb Dodtale, chief of the Yashwant Sena. “One of our people is in the ICU and another has stopped drinking water but the government is not serious (about their health) and has again sought more time
Mumbai: As the indefinite hunger strike by members of a Dhangar outfit completed its 16th day, the meeting called by the Maharashtra government to resolve the Dhangar reservation issue remained inconclusive, with community leaders resolving to continue the strike. The leaders chose to harden their stand after the state government sought two to three months’ time to take a decision that would stand in a court of law.
Chief minister Eknath Shinde said the government was willing to send a delegation comprising senior officials and representatives from the Dhangar community to Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Telangana to study the states’ issuance of scheduled tribes (ST) certificates to the Dhangar community there. The delegation’s report will be sent to the Attorney General of India for his opinion, and if a legal problem is found in issuing a government resolution on the same lines, the state will also constitute a panel headed by a retired judge to resolve the issue.
Shinde urged the agitators to call off the hunger strike until a final decision was taken. However, community leaders are unwilling to wait. “For how many years should we wait to get our rights? said Balasaheb Dodtale, chief of the Yashwant Sena. “One of our people is in the ICU and another has stopped drinking water but the government is not serious (about their health) and has again sought more time.”
The indefinite hunger strike by Dhangar activist Suresh Bandgar completed 16 days at Chaundi in Ahmednagar on Thursday. His condition worsened after he stopped drinking water on Wednesday, and he had to be given oxygen on Thursday morning after his pulse dropped significantly. While another hunger striker, Annasaheb Rupnavar, was shifted to the Sassoon Hospital ICU after his health started deteriorating, Bandgar refused to be admitted to hospital. “I am ready to sacrifice my life, as the condition of the Dhangar community is very bad,” he said. “If we don’t stand up for it, who else will?”
Dr Hanuman Patil, the tehsil health official who is keeping a check on Bandgar’s condition, said that the activist’s pulse rate was dropping and he was having difficulty breathing. “I have advised him to get admitted to hospital but he is not ready,” he said. “We have taken from him in writing that he is not ready to go to a hospital.”
At 10 percent of the population, Dhangars currently get 3.5 percent reservation in the Nomadic Tribe (C) category. The community has been demanding inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category, which will pave the way for doubling its reservation quota.
Shinde told reporters that until a decision on reservation was taken, the government had promised to extend the benefits of all the schemes meant for tribals (ST category) to the Dhangars. Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis is still optimistic. “The matter is also in the high court where the state government has promised to extend all cooperation,” he said. “I am hopeful that it will be resolved soon.”