VBA Calls Kunbi OBC Certificates Given To Marathas Illegal, Demands Maharashtra Government To Revoke The 'Sage-Soyre' GR

Krishna Dange

Jun 27, 2024, 11:06 PM | Updated 11:38 PM IST

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi Chief Prakash Ambedkar
Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi Chief Prakash Ambedkar

The Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) on January 26 demanded the Mahayuti-led state government in Maharashtra to cancel the validity of all Other Backward Class (OBC) Kunbi certificates given to applicants from the Maratha caste since the past one year. 

VBA has said that this should be complemented with the cancellation of the ‘sage-soyre’ government resolution (GR) passed by the state government in January 2024 which enables applicants from the Maratha caste to avail OBC Kunbi certificate on the basis of records of the relatives from paternal as well as maternal side. 

Kunbi being a caste mentioned in the list of OBC category, is considered to be a distinct social group by the Kunbis in Vidarbha and Konkan region. At the same time, it is also claimed to be a sub-caste of the socio-politically dominant Maratha caste by the members of the latter social grouping. 

Prior to the passing of the ‘sage-soyre’ GR which was preceded by a state-wide agitation of Marathas, applicants whose ancestors only from the paternal side who were recorded as Kunbis in either revenue or educational records, could avail the OBC Kunbi certificate. 

Not only did the state government assent to the Maratha demand for considering evidences of Kunbi connection from maternal side as well to enable those from Maratha caste to get an OBC Kunbi certificate, but it also passed a resolution guaranteeing a separate 10 percent reservation for the Maratha caste applicants who did not have records of relatives from either sides noted as Kunbis.

VBA, which has now opposed the government’s ‘sage-soyre GR,’ in its post on the social media platform X also claimed that since the OBCs in Maharashtra constitute more than 50 percent of the state’s total population, the 19 percent reservation provided to the social category in government jobs and higher education at the present was inadequate. 

At the same time, VBA also demanded the implementation of Rohini Commission’s recommendations which suggested measures to ensure that the larger caste groups within the OBC category do not corner a bigger share of the benefits. 

The party made these and other demands as a part of the 12-point agenda issued on account of the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shahu, a Maratha ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Kolhapur credited with implementing reservations on caste lines for the first time in the region.

Notably, VBA’s recent stance on Maratha caste’s demand for being considered as Kunbi and be included in the OBC category, is being seen as a turnaround from its previous position. 

The party chief Ambedkar, who is a grandson of the constitution maker and social reformer Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, had in the recent past visited the Maratha agitation leader Manoj Jarange’s protest site in Antarwali Sarati village located in the state’s Marathwada region. 

During his meet with Jarange and later in several interactions with the media, the party chief had indicated his support to the Maratha demand for reservation. Justifying his support back then, Ambedkar had claimed that a large chunk of families within the Maratha caste were living in abject poverty. 

While the Dalit leader did not clearly oppose the dominant caste’s demand for being considered as Kunbi and thus as an OBC, back then he said that since the state government had decided to hand out Kunbi caste certificates to Maratha applicants whose ancestors had identified themselves as Kunbis in government documents, the remaining section of Marathas should be awarded reservation separately.

However, after failing to win any seat in the recently held Lok Sabha elections, the prominent Dalit leader through a resolution passed in the party meeting is said to have cleared the air regarding his stance.

This is evident from the choice of words such as calling the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde led government of indulging in ‘high-handedness’ and its resolution guaranteeing OBC Kunbi certificates to Marathas as ‘illegal.’

At the present, an applicant from the socio-politically dominant Maratha caste can avail reservation benefits from the 'OBC category,' 'Socially And Educationally Backward Category (SEBC)' created specially for Marathas with no Kunbi records on paternal as well as maternal side and as someone belonging to the 'Economically Weaker Section' as well.

Former member of the Maharashtra Backward Classes Commission and OBC activist Prof Lakshman Hake has claimed that the separate 10 percent SEBC reservation given to Marathas was done through surveys conducted in haste prior to the Lok Sabha elections and that it contained bogus entries.

The OBC activist has also expressed his displeasure against Maratha caste applicants availing triple reservation benefit due to shortcomings on the part of the state government. To protest against the same, Prof Hake had been on an indefinite fast which was curtailed last week after a delegation Ministers from the state government met him at the protest site located only a kilometre away from the Maratha protest site.

Staff Writer at Swarajya

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