Maharashtra legislature's passage
of a bill granting 16 per cent quota to Marathas in jobs and
education marked the culmination of a 36-year-long movement by
the community that saw many ups and downs and loss of lives.
The bill was passed Thursday unanimously, establishing
wide political support for the measure and also reflecting the
clout of the influential agrarian community.
Community leaders say their long-drawn struggle has
finally paid off, but maintain they will continue their fight
for withdrawal of cases against their members filed when their
agitation turned violent and invited police action.
"The credit for the passage of the bills goes largely
to those who laid their lives for the cause and also to those
who have struggled for it," Ankush Mohite, state coordinator
of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said.
The Morcha is among the outfits which spearheaded the
Maratha quota agitation.
Mohite said the next step of the protesters is to
ensure that police cases filed against their colleagues at
various places in the state are withdrawn.
Rajendra Kondhare, general secretary, Akhil Bhartiya
Maratha Mahasangh, agreed with him. "Though the bill is
cleared, our battle is still not over," he said.
According to him, the quota agitation claimed around
40 lives in nearly four decades.
The demand for quota for Marathas -- who form 33 per
cent of the state's around 13 crore population - came to the
fore prominently in March 1982 when Annasaheb Patil (28), a
native of Satara district, shot himself, Kondhare said.
"Annasaheb had led a march in Mumbai over the issue.
The government ignored the demand, prompting Annasaheb to end
his life," Kondhare said.
The issue remained on the back burner largely till the
previous Congress-NCP government, ahead of the 2014 Assembly
polls, came out with an ordinance granting reservation to the
community. It was, however, stayed by the Bombay High Court.
The campaign for the quota intensified after a 14-
year-old Maratha girl from Kopardi village in Ahemadnagar
district was raped and murdered in July 2016.
The rape-cum-murder incident triggered an outrage
among the community whose members took to streets and vented
their anger against the stringent SC/ST Atrocities Act (the
accused were Dalits) and demanded justice for the victim.
The demand for justice in the rape-murder case was
coalesced with the large issue of Maratha reservation and the
agitation attracted widespread attention.
Over 50 well-attended 'mook morchas' (silent marches)
were held by Maratha organisations across the state in 2016
and 2017, sending a message to the BJP-led government about
their demand and intention to continue their struggle.
The agitation took a violent turn in July this year
with protesters slamming the government over delay in
fulfilling the demand.
Amid restlessness among Marathas, started another
phase which saw community members taking their own lives in
support of the long-pending demand for quota.
Kakasaheb Shinde, from Aurangabad district, the hotbed
of the latest phase of quota stir, allegedly flung himself to
death in Godavari river over the demand.
Jagannath Sonavane, also hailing from Aurangabad,
reportedly consumed poison and died to press for Maratha
Abhijit Deshmukh (35), who hailed from Beed, allegedly
hanged himself for the cause August 31.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)