For the past few days, the political atmosphere has heated up in the Indian state of Maharashtra over the Maratha reservation. Activist Manoj Jarange Patil on Wednesday launched his indefinite hunger strike to demand reservation for the Maratha community.
In September, Jarange Patil gave a 40-day ultimatum to the Maharashtra government to take the final decision on the reservation. As the 40-day ultimatum ended on 24th October, he started the hunger strike again.
Jarange Patil, 40, began his indefinite hunger strike in his native village in Antarwali Sarati in Ambad tehsil of Jalna on Wednesday morning. While speaking to press reporters, he said, "I had given the government a 40-day ultimatum to fulfill their promise regarding the Maratha reservation. The government's lack of response left me with no choice but to resort to this extreme form of protest".
He has taken a strict stance that until the Maratha community gets a reservation, he will not eat and will not receive any medical treatment.
Who is Manoj Jaranje Patil?
Originally from Beed, Jarange Patil now lives in Ambad in the Jalna district. He makes a living by working in a hotel. He was an activist of the Congress party but later broke off from the party to set up his own organization called Shivba Sanghatna. This organization works for the empowerment of the Maratha community.
Since 2014, Jarange has undertaken umpteen agitations seeking reservations for the Maratha community, which have largely gone unnoticed.
As an avid supporter of the Maratha reservation, Patil has often been part of delegations meeting various state politicians seeking reservations for the community. Patil decided to sit on a hunger strike with seven other activists on 29th August in Jalna, seeking reservations for the Maratha community.
His main demand is for the Maratha community to be granted reservation in government jobs and education under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
Impact of hunger strike
The situation escalated when police took action at the hunger strike site on 1st September, resulting in injuries to several individuals.
He ended his hunger strike on 14th September after Chief Minister of Maharashtra Eknath Shinde met him at the venue and assured him that the government would take a positive stand on his demands.
History of Maratha Reservation Protest
The Marathas are a group of castes constituting nearly 33 % of Maharashtra's population. The community includes peasants and landowners among others. While most Marathas are Marathi-speaking, not all Marathi-speaking people belong to the Maratha community.
The politically dominant community comprises nearly one-third of the population of the state. The division of the land and agrarian issues over the years has led to a decline in prosperity among the middle and lower middle classes.
The Maratha community has been demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutions for a long time. The first protest was held 32 years ago by Labour Union leader Annasaheb Patil in Mumbai. Since 1981, the Maratha reservation has become an integral part of politics in the state and a cause for mass protests.
A timeline of actions taken by the state government
In 2014, ahead of the assembly elections, then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan brought an ordinance pronouncing 16 % reservation to Marathas in government jobs and education. The decision was based on the then Narayan Rane Committee recommendations.
Under the Bharatiya Janata party-Shiv Sena government, the state was rocked by the Kopardi rape and murder case of 15 years old. After this incident, the Maratha community culminated into well-planned and orchestrated protests under the Maratha Kranti Morcha and Sakal Maratha Samaj across the state.
In the year 2017-18, the government took concrete measures to resolve the issues. In November 2018, based on the findings of the Backward Class Commission headed by M. G. Gaikwad, the government declared reservation to Marathas under a special provision — Socially and Educationally Backward Class Act (SEBC).
In June 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha reservation under the SEBC Act. The High Court reduced the quota percentage to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, as recommended by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission. The High Court said that the limit of reservation should not exceed 50%.
After two years, in May 2021, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan struck down the provisions of Maharashtra law providing reservation to the Maratha community. The reason was - that the total quota in the state was above 50%.
In April this year the government said there would be a dedicated panel to survey the "backwardness" of the Maratha community.
During his Dussehra Festival rally speech in Mumbai on Tuesday, CM Shinde said, "Without doing injustice to anyone and without withdrawing (reservation of anyone), this government will provide a quota to the Maratha community that will last permanently."
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