THERE ARE many reasons for long-held grudges and disputes between people from Dalit and Savarna communities “but the biggest reason is reservation”, and reservation for the economically backward people among the latter will help calm the situation, Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said Tuesday.
Referring to attacks on Dalits groups on Monday in Bhima Koregaon and other areas in Pune district, Athawale said that a 25 per cent reservation for economically backward families among the Savarnas will “substantially bring down the atrocities” against people from Scheduled Castes.
Athawale told The Indian Express, “There is a feeling that Dalits get reservation and they (Savarnas) do not. Therefore, I say that without touching the existing quota for Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis, 25 per cent reservation must be made in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically backward (families) among Savarnas, with annual income less than Rs 8 lakh.”
“Atrocity (against Dalits) will then come down,” he added.
He said that he placed this issue of reservation for the economically backward people from among Marathas, Patidars, Jats, Thakurs, Brahmins, Lingayats and others before Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the NDA meet on December 15 last year.
Contending that Parliament should ensure such reservation through a Constitutional amendment, Athawale gave the example of Maharashtra, where the High Court stayed the state government’s decision to introduce 16 per cent reservation for Marathas in jobs and colleges.
Athawale said in addition to the grudge against reservation, the Bhima Koregaon incident was also a result of pent-up anger from two previous incidents. The Marathas, he said, are upset over the rape and murder of a Maratha girl in Kopardi, even though all accused (Dalit men) in the case were arrested and sentenced to death. But in the murder of Dalit teen Nitin Age (who was said to be in love with a Maratha girl) in Ahmednagar, all the accused (Marathas) were acquitted last week after witnesses turned hostile. “The Dalit community feels that this is highly unjust,” Athawale said.
Calling the attacks premeditated, he said, “Every year, Dalits visit Bhima Koregaon to mark defeat of 25,000-strong Peshwas at the hands of Mahar (Dalit) battalion of the British army in 1818. Even Babasaheb Ambedkar used to visit the Shaheed Smarak (Mahar martyrs’ memorial) on January 1…. But never before has there there an attack on the people coming there.”