Maratha activist Manoj Jarange Patil, whose second phase of indefinite fast over the Maratha quota issue entered the third day in Jalna on Friday, slammed the state government for not announcing reservation for the community, alleging a conspiracy by the government to not give reservation to the community. He demanded that the government immediately convene a special one-day session of the state legislature to grant reservation to the community.
He also targeted the government over the extension reportedly given to the committee appointed to devise ways to provide reservation to Marathas, stating that if the committee has indded been given further extension then the Maharashtra government is conspiring not to grant quota to the community.
The state government, through a GR (Government Resolution) on September 7, had formed a five-member panel headed by retired judge Sandeep Shinde to determine the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), including legal and administrative framework, for giving caste certificates to members of the Maratha community referred to as Kunbis in Nizam-era documents. The committee was initially given 30 days to prepare the report. The deadline passed on October 7 and the committee is likely to get an extension.
“They asked for 30 days in September to give Kunbi status to Marathas. They appointed a committee to look for evidence. We gave them an extra 10 days and even provided evidence proving that Marathas and Kunbis are the same. The committee found 5,000 documents which prove the same. Our experts also provided 5,000-odd documents. They have 10,000 documents now, still they are not granting reservation and giving extension to the committee. If it’s true then it’s nothing but a conspiracy to not grant reservation and the government does not want to give reservation,” Patil said.
The activist, who has been the face of the Maratha quota agitation after he sat on hunger strike in Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna in September to press for Maratha reservation, also appealed to ruling as well as Opposition party leaders to not enter villages till reservation is granted to Marathas.
On October 25, when the ultimatum of 40 days he had given to the government to announce the reservation ended, Patil had taken a stern stand and started a fresh round of indefinite fast unto death and refused to take food, water and even medical treatment.
He also announced that political leaders, be it from the ruling or Opposition side, should not enter their villages and appealed to the villagers to stop visiting politicians from entering their villages.
“I want to tell the chief minister, the two deputy chief ministers and other ministers and other politicians.. Do not come to our villages… We are not coming to your doorsteps now. You (politicians) also do not come to our doors (villages). You are not welcome here and you have no business here. You go to Mantralaya and Vidhan Bhavan and speak for our cause there. Your job is to raise our voice in the legislature… you politicians do that only… do not come to our villages. Now if the leaders are not giving us reservation and still trying to enter our villages, then it is clear that they are coming to disturb the law and order situation. They should instead go to the Legislative Assembly and raise their voice for the Maratha reservation,” Patil said.
He appealed to villagers to peacefully stop leaders from entering their villages and ask them to leave politely without getting aggressive or violent and also appealed to community members to not die by suicide.
“Now onwards, no community members should die by suicide. We are fighting for you. This is just the second phase of our struggle. The government is exhausted by just one phase of our agitation. Now they will have to accept our demand. We have another two to three phases of our agitation left. We will wait for the next two days and decide the further course of action on October 29,” Patil said.
Patil also took potshots at Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on their visit to Delhi and questioned why Shinde and Fadnavis did not apprise Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the quota agitation in Maharashtra.
The series of suicides started taking place in the state after the issue of Maratha quota once again took centrestage after the Jalna police allegedly resorted to lathicharge and used teargas on Maratha quota activists sitting on hunger strike in Antarwali village in Jalna on September 1.
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The state government had come under fire from Opposition leaders over using force on Maratha protesters, with several leaders visiting Antarwali village and supporting the agitation led by Patil.
The Opposition pressure forced the government to initiate talks with Patil and issued a GR to give Kunbi caste certificates to Marathas whose ancestors were described as Kunbi in Nizam-era documents of the Hyderabad kingdom. It would allow Marathas from the state’s Marathwada region to avail quota benefits as Kunbis that fall in the Other Backward Class (OBC) group.
Patil, who had earlier started an indefinite hunger strike on August 29 in Jalna, broke his fast on September 14 after Shinde and other ministers visited the protest site and gave him assurances.