Last Updated: October 14, 2023, 15:09 IST
Activist Monoj Jarange, who has brought back the Maratha quota issue to the centre stage in Maharashtra, on Saturday threatened to intensify his agitation after October 24 if the government fails to provide reservation to the community in jobs and education.
“After October 24, it will be either my funeral procession or the community’s victory celebration (after granting of reservation),” said the lanky leader during his address to a massive gathering at Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna district.
Jarange, who was earlier on a hunger strike in the village over his demand for reservation for the Maratha community under the OBC category, had ended his fast on September 14 on the 17th day after Chief Minister Eknath Shinde met him and assured to fulfil his demand.
The 40-year-old activist had set a 40-day deadline before the Shinde government for taking steps to implement reservation for the Maratha community.
Jarange demanded on Saturday that Marathas across the state be given Kunbi certificates. Kunbis enjoy reservation benefits under the Other Backward Caste (OBC) category.
The activist said he would address the community on October 22 to explain their course of action after October 24 in case the demand is not fulfilled. He also asked his supporters to maintain peace during protests.
Jarange slammed state minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal for allegedly claiming that Rs 7 crore had been collected for Saturday’s protest. He said that only the Maratha community supported the protest and managed to arrange just Rs 21 lakh for the gathering.
He also accused Bhujbal, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and advocate Gunratan Sadavarte of trying to incite the Maratha community and urged the members to stay united and “not to fall for divisive tactics”.
The activist urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to have a “word with Fadnavis and drum some sense into him over the issue”.
The Maratha community has given so much to Fadnavis, he claimed. “If you grant reservation to Marathas, the people of the community will hold you in high regard,” he said.
Jarange claimed that his Facebook account was inaccessible for two hours, suggesting that it was under some kind of clampdown.
He accused the Maharashtra government of not conducting a survey to facilitate Maratha reservation. The activist said the government should consider increasing the quota ceiling beyond 50 per cent to accommodate reservations to Marathas while ensuring that the move is not struck down by courts.
Marathas are primarily a farming community and they have been a significant contributor to the country’s agricultural landscape, providing essential foodgrains, he said. “Despite their crucial role, the community feels marginalised and excluded from the benefits of reservation,” he said.
Earlier, addressing a gathering at Yeola, the assembly constituency of state food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal, in Nashik district, Jarange said on Monday that they had given 40 days to the government instead of 30 days and would not sit idle after the end of this duration.
He also demanded the death penalty for those behind the rape and murder of a minor girl, who belonged to the Maratha community, at Kopardi in Maharashtra seven years ago.
Before his speech on Saturday, Jarange performed a puja at the statue of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)