This is a guest blog by Aneesh.
For more than a month, the Marathas have been holding silent protests across the state, demanding reservation for their community and justice for the death of a teen who was allegedly raped by Dalit men in Kopardi Village of Ahmednagar District on July 13. The agitation led by the Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha, also seeks amendments to the often misused Prevention of Atrocities on Dalits Act. In this blog Aneesh has analyzed the problem posed by the “Maratha Agitation” to seek solutions.
History: Maratha Reservation
The demand for Maratha reservation dates back to the 1980s. It was vigorously resurrected in the last decade during the tenure of the Congress-NCP government. Comprising 40 per cent of the state’s population, Marathas are economically and politically powerful. The present assembly has over 50 per cent Maratha MLAs and an equal number of MPs. The Maratha community has traditionally been the land owners in the state with about 78.6% of the operational land holdings. The agriculture Census and the Economic Survey of the state shows that only 7.5% and 6.3% of the operational holdings in the state belong to SC and ST community.
During the Congress-NCP government the Rane committee had recommended 16 per cent reservation for Marathas. The Maharashtra Assembly with overwhelming support from all the parties passed it. Being a strong political community their demands were met as no party wanted to cross them. The problem started when the provision for Maratha reservation could not stand legal scrutiny.
Current Status: Maratha Agitation
The rape incident has triggered the current agitation. Along with reservation, Maratha leaders are demanding scrapping of the Prevention of Atrocities Act which they claim is being used to target them. Qualifying the Marathas as socially or economically backward community is not easy. No government has been able to establish this in court.
The agitation reflects accumulated anger over the years due to paucity of jobs and the agrarian crisis. Most of the farmers who committed suicide in Maharashtra have been Marathas. The rich Marathas grabbed political power in the cooperative sector and did little to emancipate the deprived sections of their own community. It is believed that the much-vaunted power of the Marathas is concentrated in just a few dominant families.
Similarity: Maratha Agitation with Patel’s and Jat’s Agitation
The demand for reservation in jobs is similar to the demands of Patels in Gujarat and Jats in Haryana, both dominant communities.
Future of Such Agitations
The Maratha agitation is a symptom of poor economic growth, job creation and plight of the farmers. The solution has to be provided at the national as well as the state level. Grant of reservations is no solution. Creation of jobs, rapid economic growth and improving the state of the farmers is the only solution. The problem is a creation of the slumber imposed upon India by the 10 years of UPA misrule.
PM Modi and the state CMs have to act fast to do the needful. That is the only solution. Otherwise the agitations will cause further economic losses to the country.