The Sambhaji Brigade, one of the outfits under the Maratha Kranti Morcha, is planning to raise the reservation demand jointly with the Dhangar and Muslim communities that have also raised the pitch for quota. The organisation said that the chorus demanding reservation will help get justice as it will lend strength and weight to the voices.
“We have been discussing the issue among ourselves. A consensus is emerging that if we raise our voices jointly in association with the Dhangar and Muslim communities, it will have a greater impact,” said Santosh Shinde, the president of the Pune unit of Sambhaji Brigade. “It will be called the Maratha-Muslim-Dhangar reservation conference.”
The organisation plans to hold a joint conference early next month. “We are looking for discussions among leaders, intellectuals and thinkers from the Maratha, Dhangar and Muslim communities on how to go about achieving the goal of reservation. We are confident that there will be several solutions that would come up during the discussion,” Shinde said.
“We will hold the reservation conference in Pune first and then, it will happen at the state level,” Shinde said.
He added that the intention is to invite all other Maratha organisations for the conference. “We are holding discussions with other Maratha organisations as well and have received a positive response. We expect all other organisations to join hands.”
He said leaders in Pune will soon take up the issue with the leaders of the Dhangar and Muslim communities. “We have spoken to some leaders informally and there has been a positive response. We will soon speak to them formally and finalise the schedule for the conference,” Shinde said.
Welcoming the initiative, Dhangar community leader Prakash Shendge said: “It is a good idea to jointly raise the demand. The Maratha community is demanding OBC reservation, whereas the Dhangar community is being denied the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status just because of a typographical error. Dhangars in Maharashtra are the same as those who are called Dhangad elsewhere in the country. Dhangads are listed as Scheduled Tribe.”
Dhangar is a shepherd community and most of the members live in western Maharashtra and Marathwada. They make up about a crore of Maharashtra’s roughly 11.25 crore population (9 per cent).
In Maharashtra, Dhangars are currently on the list of the Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT).
Stating that the Dhangar community has backed the Maratha demand for reservation, Shendge said that along with the Sambhaji Brigade, other Maratha outfits should also be ready to join hands. “We are ready to hold preliminary discussion on where the reservation conference can be planned. If all Maratha organisations also come forward, then it will become a powerful voice,” he said.
MIM MLA Imtiaz Jaleel said the Muslim community is ready to jointly raise the demand. “We have already extended our support to the Maratha community on the reservation demand. If there is a proposal to jointly raise the demand with the Dhangar and Muslim communities, we welcome it. It will certainly be a powerful voice and help the three communities get justice,” he said.
Speaking about a joint conference, Shinde said: “We want our agitation to be peaceful and non-violent. The violent incidents during the Maratha agitations are unfortunate. We want to avoid all such happenings and employ democratic and constitutional means to fulfil the reservation demand.”