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All-party meeting appeals Jarange to call off fast for Maratha quota

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and others during an all-party meeting on Maratha reservation, in Mumbai, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and others during an all-party meeting on Maratha reservation, in Mumbai, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023.

Mumbai: Leaders at an all-party meeting on the Maratha quota issue chaired by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde here on Wednesday passed a resolution asking activist Manoj Jarange to call off his indefinite fast, but he refused to relent asking why the government needed more time to provide reservation to the Marathas.

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The state government should make it clear that it wanted to give reservation to the entire community, Jarange said, warning that he would stop drinking water from Wednesday evening.

The government was in favour of granting reservation to the Marathas without tampering with the existing quotas of other communities, chief minister Shinde said after the meeting.

While no major incident of violence was reported in the state during the day, as many as 141 cases have been registered so far in connection with the violence during the Maratha quota agitation and 168 persons arrested, Director General of Police Rajnish Seth said.

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Curfew imposed in parts of central Maharashtra's Beed district following violence on Monday was lifted, but prohibitory orders were still in force and Internet services remained suspended.

The agitation intensified after Jarange started an indefinite hunger strike to press the quota demand -- for the second time since August -- at his native village Antarwali Sarati in Jalna district on October 25.

After the all-party meeting in Mumbai, chief minister Shinde said a resolution was passed asking Jarange to call off his fast.

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The government needs time for legal modalities to implement the reservation and Jarange should cooperate, he said.

The resolution was signed by Shinde, deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, NCP president Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Anil Parab, Leader of Opposition in the assembly Vijay Wadettiwar (of Congress) and LoP in the legislative council Ambadas Danve, among others.

In his reaction after the all-party meeting ended, Jarange made it clear that he was in no mood to relent.

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"The government says they want time. They should tell us how much time it wants and also tell us what the problem is in giving reservation to the Maratha community.... They should tell what they are going to do in detail," he said at the fast venue.

"The government should tell why it needs time and whether they are ready to give reservation to the entire Maratha community. Then Marathas will think about it," he added.

"The agitation will not stop and I will stop taking water from this evening. They should come and talk till I can speak," he warned.

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Jarange had earlier sat on an indefinite fast in the last week of August and called it off on September 14 after CM Shinde assured to look into the quota demand. At that time, Jarange had set a deadline of 40 days.

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday published an order asking officials to issue fresh Kunbi caste certificates to eligible Maratha community members from Marathwada, paving the way for them to avail reservation benefits under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

However, Jarange opposed the move saying the entire Maratha community should be given reservation.

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"It (the government order) is not acceptable and the government should cancel it," he said.

Chief minister Shinde told reporters in Mumbai that the government was working on two fronts -- issuing Kunbi caste certificates to Marathas from Marathwada, and preparing an error-free submission as part of the curative petition filed in the apex court.

“The all-party meeting also expressed its disappointment over the violent incidents reported in the last few days. Such violent acts would be a blot on the Maratha community's agitation for reservation. The state government needs some time to prepare a submission that will pass the legal test,” he said.

“The state government is making honest efforts so that the Maratha community gets reservation benefits. The backward class commission is working on a war footing. The reservation given by the government when Devendra Fadnavis was chief minister was upheld by the Bombay High Court but struck down by the Supreme Court on the grounds of some errors. We want to avoid a repetition of this situation,” Shinde added.

Speaking to reporters at the state police headquarters in Mumbai, DGP Seth said that police has so far registered 141 cases in connection with the violence during the quota agitation and arrested 168 persons. In Beed district, 20 cases have been registered including seven offences under section 307 (Attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code between October 24 and 31, he informed.

A Rapid Action Force (RAF) company has been deployed in Beed district and Internet services in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (rural), Jalna and Beed districts have been suspended, Seth said.

Public property worth Rs 12 crore was damaged during the agitation over the last eight days, the DGP said.

The houses of Nationalist Congress Party MLAs Prakash Solanke and Sandeep Kshirsagar were torched by protesters in Beed earlier this week. The office of a legislator from the ruling BJP was vandalised by protesters in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar district.

Besides the local police, 17 companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed at sensitive locations across Maharashtra, DGP Seth said, adding that 7,000 home guards are also helping the police.

"The miscreants involved in damaging public property and arson and those who break the law will be dealt with strictly," he warned.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Vinayak Raut, meanwhile, has written a letter to President Droupadi Murmu, seeking time to meet her and demand a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue of reservation.

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