The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Tuesday ruled that Gowari community in Maharashtra should get benefits under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category, pointing out that Gowaris were categorised as a tribe more than hundred years ago in the records of British India.
The bench, comprising Justice R K Deshpande and Justice Arun Upadhye, delivered the verdict on petitions seeking the status of Scheduled Tribe.
The Gowari community had been demanding inclusion in the ST category for long. A stampede during the community’s protest over the issue near the Maharashtra legislature complex in Nagpur on November 23, 1994, had claimed 114 lives.
The state government had classified the community under the heading “Gond-Gowari” earlier and put it in the Special Backward Class (SBC) category.
The bench held that there was no such distinction as Gond-Gowaris. It also trashed three state government resolutions (GR) of 1985 declaring only Gond-Gowaris as tribals and declaring Gowaris as non-tribals. The 1995 GR declared the Gowaris as SBC and said they eligible for two percent quota, while the 2011 Central government notification declared the Gowaris as OBCs.
Ram Parsodkar, who fought for one of the petitioners, Adivasi Gond-Gowari Seva Mandal of Bhandara, said, “historical injustice to the Gowaris was undone by Tuesday’s judgment but for that 114 lives had to be lost in the tragic stampede of 1994
Gowaris are mainly located in Vidarbha and have a population of about 15 lakh. Their current status in Maharashtra is as SBC. But the central government treats them as OBCs. But in pockets of Gadchiroli, some of them enjoy ST status as they are categorized as Gond-Gowaris.
Welcoming the judgment, Ramesh Gajbe, a Mana community leader, who had led the charge in 1994 morcha along with Gowari leader Late Sudhakar Gajbe said: “It should finally seal the matter in Gowari’s favour. But going by the record of successive state governments, I am skeptical about the implementations.”
Dilip Raut, President of Maharashtra Gowari Samaj Sanghatan said, “the court has severely rapped the government. Now it should immediately implement the court’s order and give justice to the Gowaris.”