DEMANDING reservation in education and employment, and seeking scrapping of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Marathas held a huge rally here on Sunday.
The participants, numbering more than a lakh and including farmers and labourers to lawyers, doctors and professors, said they had one common identity — “Sakal Maratha (All Marathas)”. “And make no mistake — one Maratha is equivalent to one lakh!” volunteers of the Kranti Maratha Morcha, the organisers of the rally, declared.
While 30-odd politicians, including former chief minister Ashok Chavan, were among those who participated in the rally, they were in the audience. Only Kranti Maratha Morcha people are allowed on the stage in Maratha rallies such as this being held across the state.
“Our battle is not against the BJP-led government nor do we want to promote the Congress and NCP, which have miserably failed us for the last six decades. Nor is our battle against Brahmin or Dalits. We want our rights. This includes hanging the Kopardi rape culprits (Dalits accused of raping a Maratha girl in Ahmednagar) in four months. Give us reservation in education and employment under the economically backward category. Scrap the atrocities Act which the SC/STs are often using against us,” said the volunteers, who call themselves Sakal Maratha swayamsevaks.
A demand was also made at the rally to revoke the award to historian Babasaheb Purandare, with the protesters saying he had insulted Shivaji and his mother Jijau. The protesters paid their homage to both during the rally.
However, the biggest issue for participants was the “special incentives” given to Dalits and OBCs. An engineer, Puja Pawar said, “We struggle hard and fail to get admissions in good colleges. Whereas, others will make it to all good institutes and jobs. We are not against their quota, but why deprive us? Or let there be a uniform law for all.”
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Youths also talked about falling farm incomes due to shrinking land holdings.
In many parts of the Nanded city, shops were shut for a couple of hours for the rally, which passed off peacefully. Posters announcing the rally were put up across the town, carrying the name ‘Sakal Maratha Samaj’ and featuring an angry young girl.
From the manch, Kranti Maratha Morcha leaders explained their stand on reservation, the rape case and the SC/ST atrocities Act in detail.
Each person emphasised the same message: that the Marathas could not be taken for granted.
Women outnumbered men at the Nanded rally, as has been the case at other Maratha protests.
Sources said the protests are being meticulously planned, with one group leader per 15 youths, and details regarding time and place for a rally shared via social media and radio.
At the Nanded rally too, around 10,000 volunteers kept the crowd in good cheer, including distributing biscuits to the children accompanying their parents, handing out drinking water pouches and organising breakfast, tea, snacks as well as lunch.