Activist Jarange targets Bhujbal, Fadnavis at Maratha quota rally in Latur

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Latur, Jul 9 (PTI) Activist Manoj Jarange on Tuesday accused Maharashtra cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal of indulging in casteism and alleged he was trying to create a rift and potentially trigger riots between Maratha and OBC communities in the state.

Addressing a rally in Latur in central Maharashtra, he also targeted Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio, over the police action against Maratha quota protesters at Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna district in August-September last year.

Strongly refuting allegations that he was indulging in ‘casteism’, Jarange maintained that if these charges are proved by his opponents, he will not show his face to Maratha community members.

The 41-year-old activist, spearheading the agitation demanding reservation for the Maratha community under the OBC category, trained his guns at Bhujbal, a prominent leader of the Other Backward Classes, at his third rally in the Marathwada region in the recent days.

He alleged Bhujbal was trying to create a divide and potentially trigger riots between Maratha and OBC communities.

It may be noted that OBC leaders in the state are separately agitating to safeguard the 27 per cent quota granted to their community members in government jobs and education.

"Bhujbal organised a rally in Ambad (Jalna district) gathering all OBC leaders after Fadnavis told him to do so. This rally took place when the agitation of the Maratha community (for quota) was going on peacefully. Now, is it not casteism?" he sought to know.

"Last night, Bhujbal told OBC leaders to hold a rally in Antarwali Sarati. It was an effort to create unrest in Antarwali. But nothing happened," Jarange said and accused the cabinet minister of indulging in casteism.

The activist criticized the Shiv Sena-BJP-NCP government over the issue of Maratha quota and accused it of dragging its feet on implementing the draft notification on ‘sage soyare’ (those related by birth or marriage) which would allow the issuance of Kunbi certificates to all Marathas.

Kunbi, an agrarian community, falls in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, and Jarange, spearheading the agitation over the reservation issue, has been demanding Kunbi certificates for all Marathas, making them eligible for reservation benefits in education and government jobs.

"It was decided that caste certificates would be issued to those (Marathas) who have evidence of (originally being) Kunbis. Relatives of that person were also to get benefit of reservation (under OBC category) based on the same evidence. Now, they (government) say the issue of 'sage soyare' won't stand scrutiny of courts.

"(BJP leader) Girish Mahajan has served as a minister 3 to 4 times, but he doesn't remember that there are 1.30 lakh Kunbi Marathas in Jamner (assembly constituency of Mahajan). We can teach him a lesson there," said Jarange.

Last month, Mahajan, a state cabinet minister, said the activist's demand for the inclusion of "sage soyare" term in the Maratha reservation notification will not pass legal scrutiny.

Rejecting allegations that he was indulging in ‘casteism’, Jarange emphasised "If the Maratha community proves that I do casteism, then I will get down from this stage and never show my face again. I just speak the truth which is unbearable to some people." Jarange slammed Fadnavis without taking his name and said police officers who ordered action against Maratha quota protesters last year in Jalna district were given promotions instead of facing disciplinary proceedings.

"You have power, and you also take votes from the Maratha community. Who open fired, threw smoke bombs on old people from the Maratha community in Antarwali Sarati? Though these people belong to the state, they were hit by bullets which caused injuries to them. This was unfair to them. Was this not casteism?" he asked angrily.

Jarange was referring to pro-Maratha quota stir in Antarwali Sarati village in August-September last year. Police had used batons and fired teargas shells to disperse a violent mob at Antarwali Sarathi, where protesters, led by Jarange, were staging a hunger strike demanding reservation for Marathas. Villagers had then claimed police fired some rounds in the air, but officials denied it.

"Instead of acting against these policemen, you gave him promotions. We will teach a lesson to these police officials after we oust your government (in upcoming assembly polls)," he warned.

Jarange said a decision on fielding candidates in all the 288 assembly constituencies in Maharashtra, where polls are due in October, will be taken after consulting Maratha community members.

This was the quota activist's third rally in the recent days in the Marathwada region after addressing one gathering each in Hingoli and Nanded.

Jarange said the ongoing rallies are part of the first phase of the latest round of the quota movement and there will be five such phases. PTI AW/COR RSY

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