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Fadnavis appeals for peace, Maratha leaders say protests will intensify

Maratha leaders warned that protests would intensify in the coming days, but urged followers to maintain peace.

india Updated: Jul 31, 2018 23:29 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Devendra Fadnavis,Maratha reservation,Maratha Kranti Morcha
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis reiterated his government’s decision to support the Maratha’s demand for 16% reservation in education and government jobs, but requested patience from the community.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday tried to pacify the protesting Maratha community by assuring them of his government’s support. Though the protesters announced that they would intensify their agitation over the next few days, community leaders urged their supporters not to indulge in violence.

The only news of unrest came from Beed, where one protestor committed suicide. Abhijit Deshmukh, 35, hanged himself near his home in Vida village in Beed district on Tuesday. In his suicide note, Deshmukh wrote he was taking this drastic step because he was in debt and as part of the Maratha protest. Since July 23, five people from the community have committed suicide as part of protests demanding reservation.

Dnyaneshwar Patil, one of the coordinators of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is spearheading the movement, said, “We have been meeting community leaders and youths with an appeal not to resort to violent means and extreme steps such as suicides.” He said that the protests would continue in a peaceful manner until their demands are met.

On Tuesday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis reiterated his government’s decision to support the Maratha’s demand for 16% reservation in education and government jobs, but requested patience from the community.

“Some people suggest an ordinance for reservation,” Fadnavis said, alluding to suggestions floated by the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena. “We can do that, but such an ordinance will not last even a day in the courts. Our government is working towards a reservation that will withstand legal scrutiny and can be implemented. For that, we have to follow a specific legal procedure,’’ the CM added.

Fadnavis said that the 1992 Supreme Court order made it clear that if reservation quota is to be hiked over 50%, “extraordinary circumstances and evidence of social backwardness” has to established by appointing a backward class commission. Maharashtra currently has 52% reservation for various categories.

The five institutes that have been tasked with the responsibility of preparing a report on the backwardness of the Maratha community submitted their surveys to the Backward Class Commission in Pune on Tuesday.

The state government had asked the Gokhale Institute, Rambhau Mhalgi Probodhini, Shivaji Academy, Sharda Academy and Gurukrupa Sanstha to prepare reports on the educational and economic backwardness of Maratha community from western Maharashtra, Konkan, Marathwada, Vidarbha and north Maharashtra, respectively.

“All the five institutes have submitted their entries and the commission will now meet on August 3 and 4 to discuss the submissions,” said DD Deshmukh, member secretary at the commission. According to Deshmukh, the commission has so far received more than 1.5 lakh applications from individuals and various organisations.

The commission will then submit its report to the Bombay high court, which is hearing the case to give legal sanction to Maratha quota. A 16% quota was initially granted in 2014, but had to be withdrawn because there was a petition questioning how the socially-dominant Marathas could qualify as backward.

Speaking about the protests that have turned violent over the last week and saw widespread chaos in Pune and surrounding areas on Monday, Fadnavis said, “What is going on in the state today is deeply disturbing... the violent protests as well as suicides by youngsters. If we look at reservations only from an emotive angle, then we will succeed only in fanning anger in the community. But if we have to ensure reservation to the community then we must understand its legal aspects.’’

However, the Maratha outfits are committed to intensifying their agitation. In Mumbai, the community will stage a sit-in protest at Azad Maidan on Wednesday, to increase pressure on the government. Statewide sit-in protests will be launched at prominent places in all districts of Maharashtra from Wednesday.

Protestors plan to sit outside residences of lawmakers and a non-cooperation movement that urges Maratha people to not pay utility bills and taxes in a bid to put pressure on the state has already been launched. On August 9, the Maratha Kranti Janandolan will take to the streets to condemn the state government.

“The community members will meet their respective MLA, MLCs and MPs with the memorandum related to our demands with request to raise the issues in their respective houses. The community members will a stage sit-in for a couple of hours outside the houses of lawmakers. The sit-in outside the houses of lawmakers will go on for eight days,” said Shantaram Kunjir, one of the coordinators of Maratha Kranti Morcha, the umbrella body representing various Maratha outfits.

First Published: Jul 31, 2018 23:20 IST