Manoj Jarange Patil continues hunger strike, threatening to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections

Maratha activist, Manoj Jarange

Mumbai: The issue of reservation for the Maratha-Kunbi community in Maharashtra has sparked a wave of protests and agitation across the state, as activist Manoj Jarange Patil continues his hunger strike for the ninth day on Sunday. Jarange Patil, who has been demanding a notification on the decision of reservation for the community, has refused to end his fast despite the appeal of the state government. He has also threatened to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections if the reservation is not granted by February 20.

The Maratha-Kunbi community, which constitutes about 33% of the state’s population, has been seeking reservations in education and jobs for a long time, citing social and economic backwardness. The community had received 16% reservation in 2018, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2020, as it exceeded the 50% cap on quotas. The state government then formed a backward class commission to conduct a survey on the socio-economic status of the community and submit a report to the legislature.

The commission, headed by retired justice Sunil Shukre, submitted its report to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Friday, in the presence of Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The report will be presented in a cabinet meeting during the special assembly session called for February 20. CM Shinde said that the government will take a decision based on the report and expressed confidence that the reservation will be able to stand the test of the constitution and the law. He also urged Jarange Patil to call off his fast, saying that the government is positively doing its work to meet the demands.

However, Jarange Patil, who started his fast on February 10 at Antarwali Saarati village in Jalna district, has remained adamant about his stance. He said that he would not end his fast until the reservation was notified and implemented. He also said that the next course of action will be decided by the community and the government will be responsible for any consequences.

In solidarity with Jarange Patil, the Maratha protesters have staged demonstrations and road blockades at various places in the state, especially in the Marathwada region, which has been the epicenter of the agitation. The protesters have also burnt the houses of several MLAs and ministers, accusing them of betraying the community. In Nanded and surrounding districts, the protesters have disrupted the ST bus services, causing huge losses to the corporation. In Jalna, the protesters have blocked the Jalna Ambad Highway by parking bullock carts on the road. The agitation has also created an atmosphere of tension in rural areas during the wedding season.

Maratha activist, Manoj Jarange

The entire Maratha community has united to demand a unanimous decision on reservation for the relatives of the community, which includes the Kunbi sub-caste. The community has also submitted a request to Congress MLA Mohan Hambarde and Shiv Sena MLA Balaji Kalyankar, asking them to raise the issue in the special session. The community has said that it will not rest in peace until the reservation is provided. The issue of reservation has become a major political challenge for the state government, as it has to balance the interests of the Maratha and OBC communities, which are both influential vote banks in the state. The issue has also gained national attention, as it may affect the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections, which are due in April-May 2024.