One of the strongest voices in the Maratha community, Shantaram Kunjir, died of a heart attack on Monday evening. He was 56.
A close associate of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Kunjir played a key role during the Maratha community’s agitation for reservation three years ago. He was one of the key coordinators of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which held 58 morchas across Maharashtra.
Kunjir, who was also at the forefront of helping farmers get their demands fulfilled from the state government, was known for his aggressive streak, but at the same time he was admired for being the moderate face of the Maratha community. “He followed Chhatrapati Shivaji’s ideals like taking all sections of the society together. He articulated his views strongly, but he was very accommodating while dealing with people from different communities. In fact, he helped end disputes between Maratha leaders and RSS leaders whenever any problem cropped up,” said Lahoo Landge, one of his close aides.
Vinod Patil, another coordinator of Maratha Kranti Morcha, said Kunjir undeniably played a crucial role in getting justice for the Maratha community. “He was right at the front during our agitation for reservation. It was he who was in the planning team of the organisation, making appropriate suggestions and showing the way for all of us,” said Patil.
Paying his tribute, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said, “Kunjir was born in a poor farmer’s family. All his life he fought for the welfare of the Maratha community. He knew the problems of the Maratha community and effectively raised the issues with the government of the day.”
Pawar said in the last 26 years, Kunjir led several agitations, including as the coordinator of the Maratha Kranti Morcha. “He was a bridge between people who believed in different ideologies. He succeeded in bringing such people on a common platform and ensured that bitterness between people ended through such initiatives,” said the deputy CM, adding that Kunjir always encouraged youngsters to read books and acquire knowledge.
Shrimant Kokate, a writer, said Kunjir not only spearheaded the community’s agitations on the streets, but he put up persuasive arguments in favour of the community before various commissions appointed by the state government, and also during court battles.
Describing him as a close friend of the Muslim community, activist Anjum Inamdar said, “Kunjir had been closely associated with the Muslim community for years during the fight for getting reservation. He carried people from different communities together. It was at his initiative that several Muslim organisations came together, along with the Maratha community in Pune, to celebrate Shiv Jayanti.”
AAP leader Mukund Kirdat said Kunjir was also the voice of the farmers’ community. “He led several agitations to get justice for the farmers’ community,” he said.
Kunjir had served as the president of the Maratha Seva Sangh and the Sambhaji Brigade. He was also a leader of the Maratha Mahasangh.
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