Maratha outfits begin silent agitation; state invites them to talk
The Maratha community outfits on Wednesday began the next phase of their statewide silent agitation to press for reservation in government jobs and education, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court last month. Responding to the launch of the agitation under the leadership of Rajya Sabha MP Sambhajiraje, which was attended by MPs, MLAs and Opposition leaders, Maharashtra government is expected to meet the Maratha leaders on Thursday to apprise them about the steps taken on legal and administrative fronts.
The Supreme Court on May 5 quashed 12% and 13% quota given to Marathas in education and jobs under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act, 2018. The state plans to file a review petition in the SC, as recommended by a committee of retired high court judge Dilip Bhosale to study the ruling and recommend a way forward.
The protest, termed as silent march, was held at Shahu Samadhi Sthal, the resting place of Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, a reformer king of the princely state of Kolhapur and a descendent of Maratha warrior king Shivaji, in Kolhapur on Wednesday. Shahu Maharaj, grandson of Rajarshi Shahu and Sammbhajiraje’s father, and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi chief and BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar too participated in the protest.
The organisers requested the participating politicians to put forth their individual stand and not the agenda of their parties. BJP’s state president Chandrakant Patil was requested by Sambhajiraje to not speak at the protest as it would give a political colour to the protest. Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati demanded immediate steps by the state to restore the reservation and extend the benefits to the community.
The community has been holding district-wide meetings and statewide protest to push its demand of restoration of the quota. Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, the face of the community, has announced similar protests in Nashik, Aurangabad, Amravati, Raigad till month-end and a march from Pune to Mumbai in August if the demands are not met by then.
“Respecting the request by honorable Sambhajiraje, I did not speak at the protest venue. The organisers have allowed the elected representatives only from Kolhapur to speak. I will speak when it is held in Pune. We will give a memorandum of support from our party,” Chandrakant Patil said.
Minister of state for home and Kolhapur’s guardian minister Satej Patil, minister Hasan Mushrif, minister of state Rajendra Yadravkar, MPs Sanjay Mandalik (Shiv Sena), Dhairyasheel Mane (Shiv Sena), MLAs Prakash Awade (independent), Chandrakant Jadhav (Congress), Vinay Kore (Jansurajya Shakti) participated in the protest.
Shahu Maharaj said the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clear their stand on reservation. “The state has been doing its job, but there are limitations to their powers on legal grounds. We were told that PM Modi assured the CM Thackeray-led delegation last week to take positive steps on reservation. But Modiji needs to clarify on his stand on reservation to Marathas. Reservation can be restored only by adopting legal options in Parliament and for this, garnering support of all parties and all states is important,” he said.
Satej Patil invited Sambhajiraje and other Maratha leaders for talks with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and other senior ministers. “I thank Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati for his amicable stand to not resort to any aggressive protest amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The state is 100% sympathetic towards the demands by the community. We are in favour of strengthening of SARTHI and its district level branches, more funding to Annasaheb Patil Arthik Vikas Mahamandal, expedite the legal proceedings in Kopardi case and filing a review petition in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Thackeray, Ajit Pawar, public works minister Ashok Chavan and other senior ministers are expected to meet the Maratha delegation at 5pm on Thursday. It will be followed by the meeting of the cabinet sub-committee headed by Ashok Chavan to take a review of the compliance of the assurances given to the community.
Sambhajiraje has demanded review and curative petitions in the Supreme Court, petition to the Central government for the reservation from the Central list and constitution of the state backward class commission. He has also demanded extension on the benefits of the quota to the youths from the community in jobs and education by making special financial and administrative arrangements. He has also demanded that the elected representatives from all parties push the demand for the reservation in ensuing monsoon session of the state legislature.
“Even if the state powers to give quota are restored, it would not work, unless the 50% cap on reservation was removed,” said a Congress leader. “We wanted the elected representatives to speak up on their stand on the reservation, as ultimately they have to push it in the state legislature. We are not fully satisfied with the government’s stand,” said Virendra Pawar, one of the organisers of Maratha Kranti Morcha.