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BEGINNING A consolidation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Dalits to counter the growing show of strength by Marathas, 10 splinter groups have forged an alliance and decided to organise silent morchas across 358 talukas of Maharashtra’s 36 districts with the broader aim of defending their reservation quota. Under the banner of OBC Janjagruti Mahamorcha, leaders from both OBC and Dalit communities plan to reach out to each village to guard their rights.
According to Anil Mahajan, president of Maharashtra Malli (OBC) Mahasangh and one of the organisers, their main demand president is that there should be no compromise on existing quota limits due to the demand put forward by Marathas on reservation for jobs and education. “The OBCs and Dalits are not against reservation for Marathas, but it should be over and above the existing (limit),” he said.
Beginning with a morcha in Beed district of Marathwada region on October 20, the Dalit-OBC groups will take their rallies to Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, Nagpur, Mumbai (after Diwali) and other districts later. The decision was taken soon after the first experimental OBC-Dalit rally in Newasa taluka of Ahmednagar district on October 10.
Anil Mahajan said, “All groups representing OBCs and Dalits have decided to unite under Jangatruti Mahamorcha. We have decided to take silent morchas that will be disciplined, non-violent.” He indicated that Kunbhi-Marathas, classified under OBCs in Vidarbha region, are supporting their plan for silent rallies.
Dalit activist Ramrao Gawli said, “Unlike Maratha morchas, Dalits-OBC rallies will not be a show of strength due to financial constrains. But we are working to reach the message at the grassroots level.”
The OBC-Dalit show of unity has the Congress and the NCP worried, as the parties fear that the ruling BJP would take political advantage. Of 288 Assembly constituencies in Maharashtra, voters from OBC and Dalit communities are influential in nearly 180 seats across Marathwada, Vidarbha, north Maharashtra, parts of western Maharashtra and Konkan regions.
Maratha voters are a dominant force in approximately 70 to 75 seats in Marathwada and western Maharashtra regions. “Through these morchas, the OBCs and Dalits want to warn the established Maratha leaders who have set the process of dividing the society on caste lines. The majority of the Maratha stalwarts belong to the Congress and the NCP,” a senior Dalit leader said on conditions of anonymity.
Prakash Ambedkar, leader of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, said: “The assertion of Marathas has set the process of OBC-Dalit unification. It is a natural phenomenon. Marathas are known for their political and economic might, and the fact that they have taken to streets have instilled fear in vulnerable sections of the societies such as Dalits and OBCs.”