Sharad Pawar’s supporters in connivance with the urban Naxals are suspected to be trying to destabilise Maharashtra Government
The protest demanding reservation for the Maratha community has seen a spate of suicides across the state
For the last two years Maharashtra has witnessed a jump in the sectarian-caste based unrests which are directly linked to several statements by NCP strongman Sharad Pawar. Time and again he has called for caste-based social unrest in his public speeches and press talks particularly mentioning the caste of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Once called ‘JaŇata Raja’ (the King who knows it all - a phrase used by Saint Samarth Ramadas Swami for none other than Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) by the left lobby journalists in the state, Sharad Pawar is now being ridiculed in social media as ‘KhaŇata Neta’ (the leader who digs) for his casteist views. Every unrest in the state is being linked to Pawar as the man behind it all. The Farmers’ Strike, the Milk Producers’ Strike, the Bhima Koregaon Riots, the State Transport Strikes, the unrest generated around Maratha Reservation row, almost every unrest has a typical ‘Pawar Stamp’ over it. He even tried to oppose the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan’ award function openly using the caste labels three years ago.
CM not allowed to perform Vitthal Puja
For the first time in the history of Maharashtra, the state Chief Minister was prevented from performing the annual Vitthal Puja on the auspicious Ashadh Ekadasi at Pandharpur. Since Independence, it has been a practice to perform annual Puja of Lord Vitthal by the state at the hands of the Chief Minister at Ashadh Ekadasi in Pandharpur. And the Kartik Ekadasi Puja is carried out at the hands of the Revenue Minister. But the Maratha agitators linked to the Pawars threatened dire consequences if CM Devendra Fadanvis attended the annual state Puja at Pandharpur Vitthal Mandir.
Lakhs of Varkaris (foot prilgrims who visit Pandharpur in Ashadh and Kartik months Ekadasi walking from all over the state) gather in Pandharpur on Ekadasis. The security of these traditional devotees, who are aloof of politics, is major priority of the state government. There were reports from Home Department that there was a plan to create havoc at Pandharpur among the Varkaris so that it causes stampede. Resultantly the situation might be created that will force the police to use force against the Varkaris. Urban Naxal units were suspected to be used for it.
When Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis received these reports from the Home Department, he cancelled his Pandharpur visit. He is being praised by the political observers for the bold and timely decision, which made sure the Varkaris be safe.
Maratha Reservation Issue
It is to be noted that the Maratha Reservation unrest was not started as a reservation agitation at all in the first place. Around two years ago, a minor girl was raped and murdered by two goons at Kopardi village in Maratha dominated Nagar District. A section of the media was quickly used to deliberately declare the caste of the girl as Maratha and that of the culprits as SCs. Soon after the state witnessed huge protests in each district and Taluka organised under the banner of Maratha Kranti Morcha. The demands put up by the protestors were related and limited to the culprits be caught and a speedy justice be delivered. At some places, demand was also made to tone down the SC Atrocities Prevention Act. As the time passed, more such protests started taking place in Maharashtra adding more demands and shifting the focus from Kopardi girl murder to reservation. This transition was as silent as those protests were.
Although the self-discipline of the protestors was appreciated by political and social observers but they missed the point that these protests have silently created unrest among the youth of Maratha community on the basis of caste superiority. Ironically, the Maratha Youth who consider themselves as a ruler class and descendent of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj were instigated to demand reservation for themselves. Many point out that the state of Maharashtra was ruled by majority of Maratha politicians for long time and largest number of Chief Ministers, Ministers and MLAs were from the Maratha community. Still there are large number of financially backward citizens among the Maratha community, and to avoid the questions being asked to those leaders, the same leaders are now trying to create unrest against the BJP-led Government. Ironically, the Shiv Sena which is part of the government is also helping the unrest-mongers of Pawar’s party just for the sake of opposing the BJP. Some political observers feel that majority of the Marathas are financially backward. Hence the demand for reservations is justified. But no one from them questions the Pawars who ruled the state for most of the time after Independence.
BJP for Maratha Reservations
It was the Fadanvis Government, which had brought out an ordinance granting reservation to the Maratha community as soon as it took the helm of power in the state in November 2014. But the Mumbai High Court and later the Supreme Court quashed that ordinance mentioning some technicalities. But at the request of the state government, the Supreme Court directed the High Court of Mumbai to hear the case again. The Courts said the Backward Classes Commission should be formed to study and establish the need of reservation to a particular community and the proper constitutional provisions must be followed. The Fadanvis Government argued that it has followed the Constitution, but courts wanted a report from the Backward Classes Commission. Hence, CM Fadanvis appointed the Commission in early 2017. But Justice (Retd) Sambhajirao Mhase who was heading the Commission passed away and the Commission had to be reconstituted. Just six months ago, the CM appointed Justice (Retd) MG Gaikwad as the head of the Commission. According to Revenue Minister Chandrakant Dada Patil who is heading the special coordinating team of ministers to look into the issue, the Backward Classes Commission's detailed study is over and the report is being prepared and could be submitted any time. The report then will be presented to the High Court.
The BJP has always supported reservation to Marathas. The BJP leaders were also in support of Maratha Kranti Morchas and were visible in participating in those Morchas. CM Devendra Fadanvis has also time and again made it clear that he is committed to Maratha reservation on constitutional basis. He made it clear that he would grant reservations which would be valid on constitutional base and would stand rough trials by the courts.
Urban Naxals behind Violence
There are confirmed reports that the unrest is being fanned by Pawar supporters and the urban Naxal network is being used to spread violence. The state government is planning to nullify the consequences of this unholy alliance on the social mindset.