FOUR days after a five-year-old girl was raped in Nashik, authorities now anticipate a sharp rise in tension between the Maratha and the OBC communities with both groups set to organise protests and marches during the week.
A five-year-old girl from the Banjara community, which falls under denotified tribes, was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 40-year-old man belonging to the Maratha community. The incident occurred Wednesday afternoon when the victim went to a public toilet, and the accused followed her, police said.
The Adgaon police in Nashik have registered a case of rape and the accused has been arrested. He has been booked under rape allegations along with sections of the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. “The accused is in police custody till September 21,” said Sanjay Sanap, senior inspector, Adgaon police station.
On Saturday, Haribhau Rathod, a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council and a leader of the Banjara community, alleged in a press conference that the accused was an active member of one of the Maratha groups participating in the rallies being held.
“While on the one side, the Maratha community has been organising morchas in various districts, a member of the Maratha community has raped a child. So, the people from the backward classes are agitated by the incident. We are now organising an ‘aakrosh morcha’ on September 22 seeking justice for the girl,” said Rathod claiming that various parties such as the Republican Party of India (Athawale), Bharipa Bahujan Mahansangh and other organisations will participate in the agitation.
“At present, the denotified and notified tribes are not covered under the Atrocities Act. We are demanding that we be covered under it,” he added.
Incidentally, a Maratha organisation has also organised a morcha in Nashik on September 24, with demands including an immediate halt of the alleged “misuse” of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, reservation for Marathas and strict action against the culprits in the Kopardi rape and murder case.
Meanwhile, organisers of the Maratha agitation in Nashik denied that the accused is a member of any of their groups. “It is true that the accused belongs to Maratha community. But he is not connected with us. We have condemned the incident. We believe that strict action should be taken against the accused irrespective of community,” said Santosh Gaidhane, a member of Maratha Kranti Morcha in Nashik.
So far, the Maratha community’s rallies are being seen as expression of anger against the state government on various issues. However, with the Banjara community in Nashik organising its own agitation, the OBCs are seen as coming together in response to the mobilisation by the powerful Maratha caste.
Meanwhile, the minor victim of Wednesday’s incident was discharged from hospital on September 16 after undergoing treatment for pain. “She was put on antibiotic support,” an on-duty doctor from Nashik Civil Hospital’s pediatric ward said, adding that the child sustained no serious physical injuries and was in a stable condition following which a decision to discharge her was taken.