Even as Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said in the Maharashtra Assembly on Tuesday that his government was making every effort to get reservation for the Maratha community, MP Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, who is leading the community’s fight for quota, urged Thackeray to meet the protesters and hold a dialogue with them.
“I have met the Chief Minister several times in connection with the Maratha reservation issue…Maratha community members are angry as their demand for reservation remains unresolved. I urged the Chief Minister to meet the agitating Maratha youths and pacify them. If the Chief Minister speaks directly to them, the community will understand his government’s resolve,” Sambhajiraje said on Tuesday.
The Maratha Kranti Morcha has been holding a sit-in agitation at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai since Monday. At the same time, Maratha youths who are agitating outside Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Research, Training and Human Development Institute (SARTHI) in Pune have threatened to self-immolate themselves.
Sambhajiraje said the community is not happy with State Minister Ashok Chavan, who heads the government’s committee on reservation. “A section of the Maratha community is demanding Chavan’s resignation. I think it will be fitting if the Chief Minister himself takes the initiative and holds a dialogue with the agitators,” he said.
In Mumbai, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met the protesters on Tuesday. Fadnavis said the state government’s efforts to prevent protesters from coming to Mumbai from different parts of the state and arrest them shows how the government was trying to supress the agitation. “This kind of action will only inflame the community members. The government’s action should be in the interest of the community and not against the community as it would only excerbate the situation,” Sambhajiraje said.
NCP MP Supriya Sule, who also met the agitators, said she will take up the protesters’ demands with various state ministers.
In Pune Maratha youths have been holding an indefinite hunger strike for the past 11 days. On Tuesday, they gave a letter to SARTHI managing director Ashok Kakde, threatening to immolate themselves if the Taradoot project, which was implemented by SARTHI, is not resumed. “The project was shut down just two months after it was started. Several students have been affected by this. If SARTHI is not going to resume the project, we will immolate ourselves on December 17,” said Sadashiv Bhutekar, who is leading the students’ agitation outside SARTHI.
Sambhajiraje, who had met the students two days ago, said, “The government said it has given autonomy to SARTHI, but this is not true. All the appointees on SARTHI are present or former government employees. Besides, when we asked SARTHI officials, they said they cannot take any decision. I don’t understand what kind of autonomy the government has given SARTHI. The failure of the government in taking correct steps is only fuelling anger in the community.”
Shiv Sangram chief Vinayak Mete said, “The state government is not at all serious about Maratha reservation. It is merely behaving like a spectator even as youths from the community have taken to the streets. If the government does not take effective steps, it will lead to more aggressive agitation, which will be difficult to handle…”