A slew of Maratha organisations, which hit the streets after the Kopardi rape and murder incident, have planned for September 25 a silent march in Pune city, which has become a common feature of their agitation across Maharashtra.
Organisers claim an estimated 10 lakh people could participate in the march which they say is not against Dalits and has got nothing to do with Sairat movie as claimed by MP Ramdas Athavale.
Among the Maratha community’s key demands are an immediate halt to the “misuse” of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, reservation for the Marathas and strict action against the culprits in the Kopardi rape and murder case.
Already, seven such silent marches have been held in different parts of Maharashtra, each drawing massive crowds. “Whether it was Parbhani, Beed or Hingoli, lakhs turned up to participate the march,” said Ajay Bhosale, regional president of Sambhaji Brigade, one of the 35 Maratha organisations at the forefront of the agitation.
On September 25, the silent march will begin in Deccan area and will end at the district collectorate after passing through the busy roads of Pune city. The Maratha organisations are expecting a much bigger turnout in Pune.
“We are expecting a mammoth turnout for the silent march as people from not only Pune but even beyond Pune are expected to participate,” Bhosale said.
“There is a lot of anger among the Maratha community as the state governments over the years have ignored their reasonable demands. Which is why there is spontaneous turnout for the silent marches across the state. We are expecting around 10 lakh people to participate in Pune, but it may turn out to be more than that,” Bhosale said.
“We are not demanding scrapping of the Act per se. What we want is an end to the blatant misuse of Act,” he said.
Echoing the view, Dhananjay Jadhav of Chhava Sanghatna said, “In the name of atrocity, innocent people from the Maratha community are being put in jail for months without bail. There is a need to amend the provision to ensure that the accused has the right to seek bail.”
Jadhav said though they are demanding amendments to Atrocity Act, in reality if the Act is scrapped it will help reduce inequality in the society.
“This is because more 90 per cent of the cases are not genuine…Innocent Maratha community youths have suffered its burnt. Their lives have been wrecked. These youths then harbour bitterness against the complainants which only reveals how the gap between the communities is widening instead of lessening,” he said.
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“But, yes, if the Dalit community strongly believes that the Act should remain in force, we have no problem provided the offence becomes bailable and no fake cases are filed,” Jadhav said. He said they have suggested that a committee should be set up to verify the complaint before the complaint is filed under Atrocity Act.
The morcha, Bhosale said, was certainly not against Dalits. “During the morchas held over a month, no voices were raised against anybody. This is not a fight between Marathas and Dalits. It is a fight by the Maratha community to seek justice from the state government,” he said, rubbishing the statement by MP Ramdas Athavale that it all started after Sairat movie. “The morcha has nothing to do with Sairat as is being claimed,” he said.
At a press conference in Mumbai on Saturday, Athavale had claimed that “the agitation has started after “Sairat”, a film based on a love story of an oppressed caste boy and a high-caste girl”.