Maharashtra Bandh: August 9 protest hangs in balance as Maratha groups await written assurance
Despite an assurance from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Maratha groups have refused to withdraw their statewide protest on August 9 unless they are offered a written undertaking saying that their demands will be fulfilled.
On Sunday, Fadnavis assured the community that the state government would implement their demand for 16 percent reservation in jobs and education by November this year.
The announcement came after the CM attended two high-level meetings, one with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the other involving all party MPs from the state, chaired by BJP president Amit Shah.
The CM also, on a televised broadcast, said that the state would also postpone the scheduled ‘mega recruitment’ drive of 72,000 people till the Maratha community was given reservation, a move that inadvertantly drew sharp criticism from other communities.
However, Maratha groups have said that they plan to continue their state-wide agitation, i.e Maharashtra bandh, on August 9 unless they get a written undertaking from the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary.
“We will not back down from the protest until we get a written undertaking from the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary that the quota would be implemented by November end,” Raghunath Chitre Patil, one of the convenors of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is spearheading the protest, was quoted as saying.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Nanasaheb Kute-Patil, state coordinator of Maratha Kranti Morcha.
Maratha leaders were to meet today to finalise steps for ensuring a peaceful protest and timely reporting of any violence or anti-social elements to authorities in a bid to avoid a repeat of the violence that had marred earlier protests.
Unfortunately for the CM, the State Backward Class Commission on Monday told the state it would be able to submit a final report on Maratha reservation only by November 15, implying that the final implementation will likely get pushed to the end of the year.
The commission has been tasked with presenting the socio-economic status of the Maratha community, which will form the basis of granting reservation. If the report fails to show social backwardness, the reservation will not stand legal scrutiny.
Meanwhile, during today’s hearing, the Bombay High Court requested agitators to not resort to violence as the matter was sub-judice and following due course.
Further, extreme steps like suicide should not be taken while the commission was preparing its report, it added.
The bench also directed the Maharashtra Government to expedite the ‘sensitive’ matter and file a status report on the Maratha reservation issue by September 10, when the next hearing is scheduled.
Incidentally, Dalit groups have also called for a country-wide strike on August 9 to press for a list of demands, including the alleged weakening of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Supreme Court.
Local authorities and state police force are already on high alert, making the necessary arrangements to ensure law and order situation if the protests go ahead.