Mumbai, Sept 26: Situation is turning grim in Maharashtra. Following the Jat and Patidar agitation in Haryana and Gujarat, another Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled state is set to face an upper-caste backlash. The grassroot level protest being organized by Maratha Kranti Morcha is gradually gaining pace. The Maratha rallies over the past week in Navi Mumbai, Nashik, Pune and Ahmednagar saw the turnout of thousands of members of the Maratha community. Their demands were scattered, but the central theme of their protest remained the same – socio-economic justice for Marathas. As per the political observers in the state, the Maratha agitation is only going to be consolidated in the months to come. Before commentators could frame it as another reservation-based agitation, one should recall the triggering point of the entire underground revolution. It was the brutal rape and murder of a 15-year-old Maratha girl by three Dalit perpetrators which led to the galvanization of protesters across the state.
Several left-leaning opinion makers, including Swati Pansare, daughter of slain communist leader Govind Pansare, have urged people to prevent the politicisation of the horrific rape-murder case. However, none could deny that the gruesome crime committed by Dalits against Marathas has only highlighted the stark reality emerging in several of rural regions of Maharashtra. The socio-economic conditions are getting reversed. The erstwhile oppressed section of the society has, in the past six decades, socially and economically advanced themselves. Being safeguarded through reservation in educational institutions and government jobs, the Dalits have been empowered to an extent in Maharashtra. The Marathas have predominantly been involved in the agrarian activities. Despite being the owners of land, the downfall of the agricultural sector has hurt them severely. Maximum number of victims as recorded under farmer suicides are those belonging to the Maratha community.
The fuel behind the current Maratha Kranti Morcha in Maharashtra is not merely reservation, but the factors which made community members to believe that reservation is the one-stop solution. The degrading Minimum Support Prices (MSP) in agricultural sector, and successive government not implementing the Swaminathan Commission report (which recommends 150 per cent increase in MSP) has agitated the farming community, mainly dominated by Marathas. (ALSO READ: Government committed to resolve issues: Devendra Fadnavis on Maratha protests)
As per the Census and the Economic Survey of Maharashtra, the Scheduled Caste community holds only 7.5 per cent of the agrarian land, whereas, 6.2 per cent of the agricultural holdings belong to the Scheduled Tribe community. On the other hand, maximum of the 78.6 per cent of agricultural holdings belong to Maratha farmers. With agriculture as a whole failing in Maharashtra, and successive droughts further worsening the agrarian situation in the state, large number of farmers belonging to the aggrieved community are marked their dissent. The agrarian issues under the umbrella of Maratha Kranti Morcha is the reason why hundreds of farmers and their families joined the protest in parched regions of Latur and Marathwada. In villages of Nanded and Parbhani, more than half of the population joined the mook (silence) march. The Morcha has demanded an immediate increase in the MSP, along with waiving off the loans of farmers in distressed condition.
The common denominator in Jat, Patidar and Maratha agitation is that all the three communities have been politically dominant. While they were economically strong after independence due to the land-ownership pattern and their dominance over agricultural sector, they began lagging behind when the OBC and Dalit community began climbing the socioeconomic ladder through reservation, and indulging in non-farming proffession.
In many ways, the Marathas have also expressed their angst against the Maratha leadership in the state. In the 56 year old history of Maharashtra, 13 chief ministers were from the Maratha community. One of the most powerful politician of the state, Sharad Pawar, also belongs to the Maratha community. The entire sugarcane lobby, along with educational sector is dominated by influential Maratha leaders. Despite being politically dominant, these leaders have failed to improve the lives of common Marathas. Forming 33 per cent of the state population, the community has moreover been considered as a votebank by the Maratha politicians. It is primarily the reason why Maratha Kranti Morcha has made strenous efforts to prevent any political party to reap the benefits of their movement.
(Image source: Facebook/Maratha Kranti Morcha)