Pro-Maratha quota activist considers ending strike; wants written assurance on demands first

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Maratha leader Manoj Jarange Patil during a hinger strike in Jalna.

Maratha leader Manoj Jarange Patil during a hinger strike in Jalna.

Amid frantic appeals by the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government, pro-Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange Patil on Tuesday said he would end his indefinite strike under the condition that the State CM, as well Deputy CMs, personally visit the protest site at Antarwali Sarati. village in the State’s Jalna district along with written assurances on his demands regarding the quota issue.

Mr. Jarange Patil, whose strike entered its fifteenth day, made clear he would neither end his fast nor leave the protest site until every member of the Maratha community received the quota certificate.

He laid down certain conditions for the State government and gave it a month’s time to fulfill them. The conditions include withdrawal of all cases against the agitators, suspensions of high-level police officers allegedly responsible for carrying out the recent lathi-charge on protesters, and insistence that the government issue an OBC community caste certificates for all Marathas, so that they may avail of the benefits presently enjoyed by the OBCs.

“Even after a month these conditions are not satisfied, then it will be the government’s responsibility for whatever happens next. I would sincerely urge the State not to make us repeat this indefinite strike again,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Jarange Patil exhorted his supporters to carry out the agitation by peaceful means and not resort to blocking roads, pelting stones and burning tyres.

Besides the presence of the CM and top members of the State cabinet, Mr. Jarange Patil insisted that Maratha community royals and direct descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji – BJP MP Udayanraje Bhosale and former MP Sambhajiraje – be present along with Mr. Shinde as a pre-condition to end his strike.

Earlier in the morning, Shinde camp leaders Arjun Khotkar and Sandipan Bhumre met the pro-quota activist to apprise him of the late evening all-party meeting held in Mumbai on Monday. Later, radical Hindutva activist Sambhaji Bhide also called upon Mr. Jarange Patil and urged him to call of his fast.

The activist, however, said he would take any decision only after consulting his supporters and seeking their opinion.

“We have waited for 40 years to get justice. The experts have said that it takes time for the procedure (of giving reservations) to be completed. I, too, am of the view that any decision on the quota issue should not be taken hurriedly otherwise it will ruin all our efforts. If you (Maratha community members) also agree, then we will give the government a month’s time. But if our demands are not fulfilled, we will again start the protest from the 31stst day (meaning October 12),” he said.

Earlier, speaking in Jalgaon, Mr. Shinde reiterated that the government’s stance was clear on the reservation issue and that it was willing to listen to Mr. Jarange Patil’s fresh conditions.

Mr. Shinde has already made it clear the State government would not take a hasty decision on the Maratha reservation issue as it wanted to ensure a foolproof quota for the Maratha community that would withstand legal scrutiny.

“The government is concerned about Mr. Jarange Patil’s health. At the all-party meeting, a resolution was passed appealing to the activist to take back his strike. I, too, urge him to withdraw his fast. Let it be known that all of us, ruling as well as Opposition parties firmly stand behind Mr. Jarange Patil,” said the CM, adding that the police officers behind the Jalna lathi-charge had already been suspended and that a decision had been taken to withdraw cases against Maratha quota agitators.

The government has already set up a five-member committee headed by Justice (retired) Sandeep Shinde to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for issuing OBC caste certificates to Marathas and a framework for the verification of genealogy documents within a month’s time.

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