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Maharashtra govt calls high-level meet on Maratha reservation issue as Manoj Jarange intensifies stir

Mumbai: Amid mounting protests demanding Maratha reservation, the Maharashtra government has urgently convened a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss the emerging situation, even as the health condition of Jalna-based activist Manoj Jarange-Patil – who is undertaken hunger strike is deteriorating.

In support of Jarange-Patil, who is undertaking fast-unto-death at Antarwali Sarathi village in the Ambad tehsil of Jalna district, several others are undertaking hunger strike and sit-in protestsacross the state.

Jarange-Patil, the founder of Shivba Sanghatana, who has emerged as the face of the campaign, has demanded that the government convenes a special session of the Maharashtra legislature to pass a bill ensuring Maratha reservation within the next couple of days.

“There are only two options now – provide reservation, or face the Marathas. I I will not back out now. We want is justice,” Jarange-Patil told reporters in Jalna during his brief interaction on the fifth day of the fast.

Jarange-Patil, who is on the second round of fast-unto-death, has refused to be examined by government doctors or take medicines.

Meanwhile, Yuvraj Sambhaji Chhatrapati of Kolhapur, the 13th descendent of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj appealed to Jarange-Patil over phone and urged him to drink water.

Protestors at Antarwali Sarathi have asked politicians not to come to the village and hence no one-on-one meeting would be established with the face of the campaign – thus compounding the issue.

“Nothing will happen to me, I have your blessings,” said Jarange-Patil when asked about his health.

He, however, has appealed to ensure that the protests are peaceful and no one should attempt dying by suicide.

On the other hand, Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde once again requested Jarange-Patil to be patient as the government is exploring all means to ensure Maratha reservation.

The Cabinet sub-committee on Maratha reservation, headed by state higher and technical education minister Chandrakant Patil, would be meeting at Mantralaya, the state secretariat, on Monday, to discuss the complex issue which has larger ramifications.

Last week, the Shinde-led BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP government granted two months’ extension to the five-member committee headed by retired Justice Sandeep Shinde (Retd)set up to determine the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), including legal and administrative framework, for giving caste certificates to the Kunbi community.

As the Supreme Court has struck down the Maratha reservation legislation of Maharashtra, Jarange-Patil has been demanding that Marathas be given Kunbi caste certificates to get the benefits of reservation in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. Kunbis, a sub-caste of Marathas, are classified as OBCs.

However, the OBCs are up in arms against any such possible move.

“The committee is doing a lot of work…please have patience,” Shinde appealed.

“The Cabinet sub-committee is meeting on Monday. All efforts are being made to ensure reservation to the Maratha community. The government has assured and committed to it,” said senior BJP leader Mangal Prabhat Lodha, the Minister of Skills, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Besides Patil, who chairs the committee it includes Revenue Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Rural Development Minister Girish Mahajan, Ports Minister Dada Bhuse, State Excise Minister Shambhuraj Desai, Industries Minister Uday Samant.

(Published 29 October 2023, 05:57 IST)

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