Girish Ashok Mohite, 20, identifies himself as “Maratha”, Vaibhav Bikan Jadhav, 20, as “OBC” and Govind Kallol, 21, as “Brahmin”. Yet, as they stand in a corner of Aurangabad’s Kranti Chowk, away from the horde of slogan-shouting protesters seeking reservation for Marathas, they say what binds them is their 16 years of friendship.
It’s this friendship that has got Jadhav to look beyond the OBC-Maratha faultlines that the ongoing quota demand has exposed, and lend support to his childhood friend Mohite in the ongoing reservation agitation.
Jadhav, who is an undergraduate student at the Aurangabad Engineering College, says, “I have come here to support Maratha reservation for the sake of my childhood friend Girish (Mohite). I belong to the OBC category and enjoy concessions both in terms of a lower cut-off for admissions and a 50 per cent reduction in fees. Unfortunately, both my friends Mohite and Kallol scored better than me and yet could not get the college of their choice. Moreover, they are also forced to spend at least three times more on fees. If the annual tuition fee for an OBC is Rs 45,000 per year, those in the open category have to shell out at least Rs 1.5 lakh.
Over the last few weeks, the growing assertion of Marathas, leading to street protests, has invited sharp reactions from across OBC communities who are against Marathas taking a slice of the reservation pie.
On the protests bringing out these fears and insecurities, Kallol argues, “Why should there be any hatred? Moreover, we have been friends for the past 16 years.”
Overwhelmed by the gesture of his friends, Mohite says, “Our friendship goes back to the time when we were in Class 1 in Jai Bhavani Vidyamandir School in Aurangabad.” He is a student of mechanical engineering at Aurangabad Engineering College, but believes that reservation for the community would have given him “better options” in Pune.
While arguing that there were many in the general category, like his friends Kallol and Mohite, who needed support, Jadhav says, “There should be no reason why one community should be fighting with the other. There are poor Marathas and other upper-castes whose concerns are as real as OBCs.”
Of the 52 per cent reservation in Maharashtra, 13 per cent is for Scheduled Castes, seven per cent for Scheduled Tribes and 19 per cent for OBCs, while the remaining 13 per cent is for Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) and special backward and others.