At a time when the state government has to deal with protests over Maratha reservation, the Dhangar community has revived its long-pending demand for reservation under Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.
Dhangar leaders on Friday decided to converge under a common platform, Maharashtra State Dhangar Welfare Association, to push for their demand. The leaders pledged not to withdraw their agitation till the government officially announces the reservation.
“The Dhangars are fighting for identity. We are not seeking anything new. We have so far been silent and cooperative. But there is massive unrest among the generation next Dhangars,” said Dhangar leader Gopichand Padalkar.
Dhangars, a shepherd community, make up nine per cent of the state’s population. Dhangars have a sizable presence in western Maharashtra, part of north Maharashtra and Marathwada region.
Maharashtra State Dhangar Welfare Association, led by Prakash Shendge, believes they are paying the price for someone else’s error. Yet, things can be set right if the government adopts a resolution. There is no legal wrangle in this case, he added.
“Across the country, the community ‘Dhangad’ has been listed for reservation under ST category. Due to a typographical error, the state community, which was listed as ‘Dhangar’ instead of ‘Dhangad’, was denied ST reservation. Dhangar and Dhangad are same,” a leader said.
Political leaderships in the state have been cautious in pursuing the matter. The reason why governments have kept the issue in abeyance is due to fear of revolt from STs.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has reiterated his government’s commitment to amicably resolve the issue. Tribal Affairs Minister K C Padvi has indicated they were not against the demand. But existing ST quota should not be affected. If Dhangars have to be accommodated, ST quota should increase in proportion to Dhangars’ reservation. Currently, ST reservation is 7 per cent. Dhangars get 3.5 per cent reservation under Vimukti Jati and Nomadic Tribe Category C.
In Maharashtra, total reservation is 52 per cent — SC (13), ST (7), OBC (19), Special Backward Class (2), Vimukti Jati (3), Nomadic Tribe B (2.5), Nomadic Tribe C — Dhangar (3.5) and Nomadic Tribe D– Vanjari (2).
Of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, five are reserved under SC and four under ST. Of 288 Assembly seats, 29 are reserved for SCs and 25 for STs.
Shendge said, “Mainstream parties have always used Dhangar community for electoral gains. But when it comes to keeping promises they backtrack.”
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