Maharashtra is witnessing a silent movement. The consolidation of Maratha community to protest the Kopardi rape is threatening new political alignment with OBCs/dalits uniting fearing backlash from the dominant Marathas in rural Maharashtra. The once dominant socio-economically and political ruling class has taken to streets to display their anger against Kopardi rape case.
At the outset the rallies under the local Maratha banners are to express anger against the 14 year old girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra on July 13.
The girl belonged to Maratha community. The three boys who committed the heinous crime belongs to dalit community. The boys were arrested immediately. The government has indicated that once the legalities is over they would be subjected to highest punishment.
Yet, 45 days after the incident meticulously planned Maratha rallies have taken place at Aurangabad, Beed, Parbhani and Jalna across Marathwada and North Maharashtra. In coming weeks, the rallies will cover parts of Western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Konkan region. The big question that is being debated is are these rallies confined
to just public anger against Kopardi rape? Or is there a tactic support of the seasoned Maratha ruling class trying to reassert their political might in state?
None of the prominent Maratha leaders are taking the centrestage. But reports indicate that district leadership is openly providing the logistics and support in organising these rallies.
In private Congress, NCP leader admit, “ Marathas unrest is not restricted to Kopardi rape case. The anger is an outcome of challenges faced by the poor amongst the Marathas in field of education and employment.” This has lead to demand for reservation to Marathas on the lines extended to SC/ST/OBC.
Marathas which constitute 33 per cent of the state population has always enjoyed the identity of the politically dominant class in Maharashtra. The Maratha leaders remote control the state’s economy with complete hold on cooperative, education and banking sectors.
The dalit (10.8percent) and OBCs (26 oercent) are trying to forge a new alliance to tackle the dominant Maratha community.
Despite socio-economic and political upmanship the fruits of success did not benefit the entire community. Thus leading to the rich versus the poor Maratha divide. As a result the poor class amongst the Marathas are asking special benefit in education and employment. The rural Marathas with small land holding nolonger can find agriculture a sustainable source of livelihood.
Some quarters believe the unrest amongst these poor Marathas is being channelised by the powerful leaders (out of power at present) to reassert their might in state. After the BJP lead government came to power, many cooperative and education barons are for first time being questioned over charges of corruption and violation of norms.
It is evident that mobilisation of Marathas is opening up many fronts. The NCP leader Sharad Pawar has touched a sensitive issue by seeking re-look at the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe atrocities act which is sacrosanct to the dalits and tribals.
He has expressed his concerns over the misuse of act. Amongst the young Marathas there is a growing resentment that atrocities act empowers the dalits to act against the upper caste. The Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar believes, “ Pawar’s party should have moved an amendment to the dalit atrocities act in Indian Parliament. Why rake up public debate which would divide Marathas and dalits. It is a dangerous caste politics.”
The dalit leader (RPI) Ramdas Athavale says, “ There cannot be any question of diluting the atrocities act.” If there are cases of misuse there are provisions to tackle them.