Maratha Quota Protest: As the Maratha Quota agitation intensified, it caused disturbances in some parts of Maharashtra as there were violent outbursts from some organizations. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde called an all-party meeting to discuss and diffuse the situation in the state.
Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Phadnavis, CM Eknath Shinde and Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Power attended the all-party meeting to discuss the issue (picture source- www.indiatoday.in)
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MARATHA QUOTA AGITATION
Agitation over the Maratha Quota has intensified in various parts of Maharashtra. In the all-party meeting called by CM Eknath Shinde, Shiv Sena (UBT) supremo Uddhav Thackeray was not invited.
The Chief Minister’s Office stated that the honorable CM informed the leaders to support the government in handling the situation. Legislators from various parties belonging to the Maratha community held protests and closed the main gate. Several MLAs like Babasaheb Patil, Shekhar Nikam, Raju Navghare, Mohanrao Humbarde, Vikram Kale and others asked for a special session of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to discuss the issue of Maratha Quota.
The protests in Maharashtra demanding reservation for the Maratha community have taken another turn with some protesters targeting the NCP and BJP MLAs and indulging in arson, vandalism and stone pelting. This agitation has also exposed the unorganized, fragmented and weakened state of the ruling camp as well as the Opposition Parties. These incidents of violence were mainly reported from Maharashtra’s Beed and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar districts.
Homes of 2 NCP MLAs set on fire (picture source- www.business-standard.com)
The Maratha community is the warrior class that makes up around a third of the population of Maharashtra. They are mainly peasants and land-owning groups who mostly speak Marathi. There are many references to Marathas in the Indian History as well. They rose to power under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji who is also remembered as the “Father of the Maratha nation”. He is the most revered leader among the Marathas. The Marathas are a politically dominant group in Maharashtra but over the years there has been a decline in the prosperity of the middle class and lower class Marathas.
Painting of the great Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji (picture source- www.buzz.iloveindia.com)
The demand for Maratha Reservations started ever since mass protests were held for the first time under Mathadi Labour Union leader Annasaheb Patil in 1981. Since then, the demand for Maratha reservations has become a political issue over the years. Recently in 2016-2018, the Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) held massive demonstrations across the state. The first phase remained peaceful while in the second phase the protests resulted in bloodshed and there were some alleged suicides.
SUPREME COURT AND BOMBAY HIGH COURT’S DECISION
In 2018, the BJP government ruling in Maharashtra proposed 16% reservation for Marathas in education and government jobs which was challenged in the court. In 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha Quota under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act 2018. The High Court lowered it to 12 % in education and 13% in government jobs which was proposed by the Maharashtra Backward Classes Commission. The High Court in its statement said that the reservation ceiling should not be more than 50%. This limit can only be increased if quantifiable data that reflects backwardness is available. Its statement was mainly based on the recommendations of the 11-member team of the Maharashtra Backward Classes Commission.
In 2021, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India squashed the Maratha Quota as the reservation ceiling was above 50% which was set by the court in the 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment. It was challenged by some people. In 2022, the Supreme Court sanctioned a 10% quota for the weaker sections but the then Maharashtra government was of the view that until the Maratha Quota issue was resolved, the weaker sections could not benefit from the EWS quota.
Tyres being burnt by the protesters on Pune-Bangaluru Expressway (picture source- www.mid-day.com)
Four agitating men who were in support of activist Manoj Jarange consumed poison and attempted suicide in solidarity and are currently in the hospital for their treatment. Jarange reiterated that he would not drink water until his demand for reservation to the Maratha community was fulfilled by the Maharashtra government. State-run bus services were suspended and the internet has been shut down in several parts of Beed where the protesters have targeted the political leaders. 99 people have been arrested so far and the police are trying their level best to put the situation under control as soon as possible.
WHAT THE STATE GOVERNMENT PLANS TO DO?
After Manoj Jarange’s protest, the state government formed a five-member committee to analyze the procedure of giving Kunbi (OBC) certificates to Marathas based on various documents and records from the past. The committee has stated that 11530 records of Kunbis have been found till now and the state has decided to accept the first report of the Panel. The CM has also assured that necessary steps would be taken to bring the Maratha community to the forefront by providing them with necessary security in education, employment and various other areas. The CM mentioned that the Maharashtra government is in favor of the Maratha Quota and urged the campaigner to end the indefinite fast.