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Marathas shift focus from Atrocity Act to reservation as state plans to go ahead with mega recruitment

After the state announced recruitment for 72,000 government posts, protests erupted in Marathwada after community members felt that they would miss the opportunity if not given reservation

pune Updated: Jul 26, 2018 14:57 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Marathas,Atrocity Act
Protestors of the Maratha community at Katraj on Wednesday(HT PHOTO)

During the 2016 agitation, one of the major demands of the Maratha protestors was dilution of the Atrocity Act as the community felt that the law was being misused against them. With the Kopardi rape and murder case reaching its logical conclusion, Maratha outfits have dropped the Atrocity Act demand and instead are focussing solely on quota.

While the trigger for the protest during 2016 was the rape and murder of 15-year-old girl from Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district, the activating factor this time the seems government’s announcement of mega recruitment to fill up 72,000 posts in the state.

The rape and murder of the girl from Kopardi, who belonged to Maratha community prompted protestors to demand dilution in the Atrocity Act as the suspects were Dalits. The protestors also demanded for reservation to the community and deliver justice to the victim. The protestors held around 60 silent marches across the state, forcing the government to expedite the Kopardi case, which reached its logical conclusion with the local court in Ahmednagar sentencing all the suspects to death.

Protestors in Satara blocked the highways and torched a police van on Wednesday. (Raju Sanadi)

This time, the protest erupted in Marathwada after community members began their agitation in Parli around eight days ago with the demand of putting on hold the ongoing recruitment drive till the government decides about giving them quota. Many youngsters from the community feel that if the government goes ahead with the recruitment process, they may miss the bus by not getting the government jobs.

“The agitation began after the government’s announcement in the state assembly session when chief minister talked about filling up 72,000 posts. Many from the community feel that reservation at this point is an important issue and therefore, it is being highlighted,” said Pravin Gaikwad head of Sambhaji Brigade.

The state government has already clarified that it is not going to stop the recruitment process as such a move will also hurt people from other communities. “If the government puts on hold the recruitment drive, many from the other community will also lose out on an opportunity. Similarly, the Maratha community youths will also miss the opportunity as they may risk age bar,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said on Sunday, when he decided not to visit Pandharpur in view of the threat issued by Maratha outfits to disrupt his programme.

Marathas first had 16% reservation in jobs and education which was given by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-Congress government in 2014, though it reached the high court after a petition was filed challenging the quota. Currently, the state backward class commission is scrutinising the claim of the community though constitutional experts believe that the reservation to Marathas on the basis of caste may not hold ground in the court.

“Reservation to Marathas as a caste will not be constitutionally valid. Previously, the two commissions appointed by the state government had submitted their reports saying Marathas are not educationally and socially backward,” said retired chief justice PB Sawant.

NCP supports stir

As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is feeling the heat from Maratha protestors, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has moved ahead to support the stir with various leaders participating in the agitation at various places. Though not happy with their opportunism, community members sent the NCP leaders back without allowing to them to speak. In Satara on Wednesday, NCP MLAs Shivendraraje and Shashikant Shinde had to go back as protestors prevented them from speaking.

Highlights

This time, the protest erupted in Marathwada after community members began their agitation in Parli around eight days ago with the demand of putting on hold the ongoing recruitment drive till the government decides about giving them quota. Many youngsters from the community feel that if the government goes ahead with the recruitment process, they may miss the bus by not getting the government jobs.

Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was enacted by the Parliament to prevent atrocities against SCs and STs. The Marathas feel that the Act is being misused against them by the SCs and STs. Once booked, the act has a provision of arrest of a person against who it is invoked.

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 14:53 IST