In a show of support to the Maratha organisations on an agitational path over their long-pending demands, the Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party has decided to take out similar marches in different parts of the state to back the Maratha community. Athawale and even state BJP vice-president Amar Sable vehemently denied they had any plans for counter morchas against the Maratha community.
“I never said we will take out a counter morcha,” said Sable, who also heads the BJP’s Scheduled Caste wing. The morchas by Dalit organisations in support of Maratha community assumes significance as analysts and leaders of the Maratha community believe it would help bridge the gap between the Maratha and Dalit communities.
Welcoming the development, Ajay Bhosale, who heads the Sambhaji Brigade, one of the 35 organisations that have planned a massive morcha in Pune on September 25, said, “Already, scores of our Dalit brothers are with us in our fight to seek justice. Both communities share a good bond in Maharashtra, but certain quarters are trying to pit them against each other,” he said.
Setting the record straight, MP Athawale scotched speculation that RPI or other Dalit organisations were planning counter marches to oppose the demands, especially relating to watering down of the Atrocity Act, being raised by Maratha outfits through their silent marches since the past one month. “We will not take out counter marches, but will hit the streets in support of demands raised by the Maratha organisations,” said Athawale.
Though the schedule of marches has not been planned as yet, Athawale said the first two will be taken out in Beed and Parbhani. “I have already issued instructions to our outfits,” he said, adding they were planning a Dalit-Maratha conference next month.
Supporting two of the key demands of the amendment to Atrocity Act and reservation raised by the Maratha community, Athawale said, “It was a fact that the Act was being misused. Both members of the Dalit community and members of the Maratha community are responsible. For instance, if two Maratha communities have rivalry, one will provoke a Dalit member close to him to file a case of atrocity. This is how some fake cases have been made out,” he said.
Suggesting a committee be appointed before an atrocity case is filed, Athawale said, “If proper investigation is done on a complaint by a committee, then it will help or completely negate fake cases.”
Sable said he did not believe the Act was being misused. “Since there was only seven per cent conviction under the Act, it shows the Act was not being misused,” he said. Sable said the provisions regarding bail should be reconsidered. Under the Act, Maratha outfits said bail is not granted to an accused for three months, which is against Supreme Court rulings in several cases that bail should be the norm and not jail.
Regarding reservations for the Maratha community, Athawale said he raised this demand even before the Maratha community started raising their voice. “The Maratha community should get reservations in government jobs and educational institutes. In fact, I was the first to make such a suggestion before leaders from the community realised it,” he said.
As for his comment that after the release of “Sairat”, Maratha outfits have been stirred into action, Athawale said, “Sairat was a good movie, but it is been taken otherwise by some members of the Maratha community. If we have to remove inequalities in society, we should encourage inter-caste marriages,” he said.