Now An OBC Leader On Fast Unto Death Against Maratha Reservation Activist Manoj Jarange

Krishna Dange

Jun 14, 2024, 05:39 PM | Updated 05:39 PM IST

OBC protest site at Vadhi Godhri village in Maharashtra's Jalna District. Seated in the middle OBC activist Prof Lakshman Hake.
OBC protest site at Vadhi Godhri village in Maharashtra's Jalna District. Seated in the middle OBC activist Prof Lakshman Hake.

Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange's intermittent hunger protests demanding blanket inclusion of the socio-politically dominant Maratha caste into the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category has now provoked OBC activists in Maharashtra to launch counter-protests in a similar fashion.

OBC activist and former member of the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission (MSBCC) Prof. Lakshman Hake since 13 June has been on an indefinite fast at Wadi Godri village in Jalna District.

Notably, the OBC protest site is located only a kilometre away from the Maratha reservation activist Jarange's protest site located in Antarwali Sarati.

The Maratha activist, who had launched an indefinite hunger strike on 6 June similar to several protests launched last year and later this year before general elections, concluded the same on 13 June after the state government appealed to him to give time to consider his demands.

Prof. Hake and his associates on the other hand who initiated the OBC protests after the ceasure of Jarange's protest in the morning have demanded the state government to ensure that the internal quota of the numerically smaller castes which are already a part of the OBC grouping should remain intact if it were to grant OBC certificates to the more numerous Marathas.

"I have launched this fast unto death because there is a sense of fear among the OBCs in Maharashtra. Explicit words are being used against OBCs on social media, and their shops have been targeted. I and my associates are committed to protecting the rights of the real marginalised and backward castes."

"We will continue with our protest until we are given a written assurance by the state government guaranteeing that our existing 29 per cent reservation will remain intact," Hake reportedly said.

Prof Hake was among the three members of the MSBCC apart from Balaji Killarikar and retired Justice Chandralal Meshram who had resigned from the statutory body citing pressure from state government to recognise Marathas as a socially backward caste.

Marathas, who are said to account for more than 30 per cent of the state's population, have been demanding reservation for more than three decades now. The Devendra Fadnavis-led Mahayuti government in 2018 had created a separate category for the dominant caste and granted them reservations in government jobs and higher education.

This reservation was upheld by the Bombay High Court but was quashed later in 2021 by the Supreme Court on the grounds of the social backwardness of Marathas not having been proved.

Ever since then, Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange has been claiming that the caste name Kunbi, which is listed as an OBC, is nothing but an other name for the Maratha caste. Considering this, Jarange has been demanding that the state government grant Kunbi OBC certificates to all Maratha applicants.

The Eknath Shinde-led government as of now has placated the sizeable community by granting 10 per cent reservations over and above the existing quotas in the state. However, this decision has been challenged by Advocate Jayshree Patil in the Bombay High Court.

Nonetheless, Maratha category students can avail of Kunbi certificates if either of their paternal relatives is recorded as one or can opt for the 10 per cent quota. If the student is from an economically weaker household, they can avail of the 10 per cent quota meant for the economically weaker sections (EWS) as well.

"If an OBC student wants a caste certificate, government officials harass them by delaying the procedure. They are given multiple dates and are asked several questions. On the other hand, here we are, seeing entire state machinery being mobilised to hand out Kunbi certificates to Maratha applicants," Hake said to Times Now Marathi.

Hake and other OBC leaders fear that unchecked distribution of Kunbi caste certificates to Maratha applicants would lead to multiple claimants to the seats reserved for OBCs meaning a lesser share to those from numerically smaller castes.

They also alleged that the separate 10 per cent reservation granted to the community pending scrutiny in the high court was given on the basis of bogus surveys.

Apart from such protests by Marathas and OBCs, instances of mob violence have been reported in places across the Marathwada region, the epicentre of caste tensions in the state. Vanjaris, a dominant OBC caste in Beed had resolved to boycott Maratha-run establishments after reports of violence between rival Maratha and Vanjari youth groups.

Demanding action against those involved in spreading hate against OBCs on social media, OBC outfits in Beed District on 14 June carried a march across the town. The district has witnessed violent clashes between OBCs and Marathas since last year, including houses and businesses belonging to prominent political figures being burnt.

Staff Writer at Swarajya

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