Ever since the judgment of Indira Sawhney on Ors v. Union of India. (AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3)SCC 217), which upheld the reservation of seats for backward castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which was based upon the recommendations of Mandal Commission Report, 1979, the constitutional bench judgment has opened a Pandora’s Box of nightmares for the country.
The reservation movements in India has been on whirlwind since the demands on one hand by the Jats in Haryana to not very far, ‘the Patels’ who have their own claims in their home state of Gujarat. These demands are based upon the demographics rather than the backwardness quotients as devised by the Supreme Court in its various judgments.
However, after the brutal gangrape of a 14-year- old Maratha girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar on July 13, allegedly by three Dalit youth, a movement has started now in Maharastra by the Maratha community. The massive strength of the protest has rattled the highest echelons of power at both state and the center.
The demand of the protesters range on various issues such as death penalty for the rape accused to scrapping of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, contesting it on ground of being misused, and also reservation of marathas in education and government jobs.
It is pertinent to note that Marathas constitute 33 percent of Maharashtra’s population. This means a major tour de force in at least 78 to 80 constituencies out of 288 assembly seats.
The protest has already garnered attention from almost every political parties, especially from the leaders who belong to the community and showing solidarity irrespective of their political affiliations. Sharad Powar, the leader of NCP has already stated on the scrapping of SC/ST Act that “it cannot be ignored.”
Former Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan, another Maratha leader, has accused the state government of being unable to take the Maratha reservation to its logical end. The allegations have also reigned with respect to failure to tackle reservations.
Chief minister Fadnavis has partly answered these claims by saying, “In a state with 18 per cent irrigation, how can 45 to 50 per cent depend on agriculture for their livelihood? In the last 15 years, the Congress-NCP was able to increase the irrigation potential by only 0.1 per cent. Our agro-industrial reforms are oriented to address the root problems.”
In solidarity with the state government, the Dalit leaders such as Kishore Kamble and Prakash Ambedkar, the president of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh have, on the contrary, accused the opposition of resorting to nefarious accusations to undermine the Fadnavis government.