WHILE the Centre on Monday filed the review petition against the Supreme Court ruling on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, leaders of the Maratha Kranti Morcha said they would also file an intervention petition so that they can have their say in the apex court. However, there is confusion in the ranks of the Maratha community, which seems to be divided on the right approach to take on the latest challenge.
“The Maratha Kranti Morcha will file an intervention application in the Supreme Court… Since it concerns us, we also want to place our views before the apex court. In fact, several of our volunteers will also do so,” said Rajendra Kondhare, one of the state coordinators of the Maratha Kranti Morcha which had organised the ‘Mook Morchas’ or silent marches in all the districts of Maharashtra in 2016-2017.
The ‘Mook Morchas’ had seen enthusiastic participation by lakhs of people belonging to the Maratha community. None of the ‘morchas’ led to violence or any ugly incident, which the Maratha leaders said reflected the united and disciplined approach of the community to a sensitive issue. One of the key demands of the community included doing away with certain provisions, like denial of bail under the atrocity Act. The Maratha Kranti Morcha said the Act had over the years wrecked the lives of several innocent people. Kondhare said they never demanded that the Act be repealed as they felt the “Act was needed to protect the underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society”.
Kondhare said the figures regarding how the Act had been misused were already before the apex court and high courts. “In 92 per cent cases, it has been proved the Act was misused to settle personal scores. In hundreds of cases, it has been observed that an ordinary dispute is given the colour of an alleged atrocity under the Act. Even in the remaining 8 per cent cases where there were convictions, people have appealed against the orders,” he said.
Kondhare said two weeks back, the Supreme Court had clearly ruled that the Act was being misused and made it mandatory for police to conduct preliminary inquiries within seven days of a complaint before filing an FIR. “The SC ruling also said public servants can be arrested under the Act only with the written permission of their public authority,” said Sanjiv Bhor, another state coordinator.
The Maratha Kranti Morcha, however, is yet to decide on when and who will file the intervention application. Bhor, however, struck a discordant note. He alleged that Maratha community leaders were not yet prepared to face the latest challenge. “There is clear division in the Maratha community. Nothing has been decided yet on how to go about putting forth our views… whether to file an intervention plea and who will file the plea. Though there is talk of holding a meeting, the venue and date are yet to be decided. We should have raised our voice against the Centre’s move to file a review petition,” he said.
Bhor blamed it on lack of unity among Maratha leaders who come from different political backgrounds. “There was no one leader heading the Maratha Kranti Morcha. This was because the leaders owed allegiance to different political parties. These leaders are loyal to their political parties and not the Maratha community. They don’t want to speak against the official line of their parties,” he alleged.
Echoing his views, Shantaram Kunjir, another state coordinator, said, “Maratha community leaders are not speaking in one voice. There is lack of unity among the leaders. They seem bothered about their parties and official stand. I fear the Maratha Kranti Morcha will have to be dissolved if the leaders are not able to provide effective leadership.”
Ajay Bhosale, president of Sambhaji Brigade, Pune unit, one of the 80-odd organisations which had come under the banner of the Maratha Kranti Morcha at the peak of the agitation, said, “Before political leaders started ‘infiltrating’ the Maratha Kranti Morcha, it was a united force… Today, it’s a fact the organisation is a shadow of its past…”