Maharashtra minister’s Maratha mission fails to fructify, agitation continues

ST bus services suspended in some parts, top Oppn leaders rush to Jalna (LD) — IANS

Jalna (Maharashtra), Sep 3 (IANS) Maharashtra Minister Girish Mahajan’s “Maratha Mission” on Sunday apparently failed to fructify and the protestors have decided to continue their agitation for quotas in education and jobs.

Mahajan, along with MLA Nitesh N. Rane – both from Bharatiya Janata Party – called on the agitation leader Manoj Jarange, conveyed the state government’s willingness to start talks in the Maratha quotas, and requested that the agitation should be called off first.

However, in an aggressive mood after the Friday police action on the community, Jarange demanded that the government should announce “the Maratha quotas in education and jobs within 48 hours”.

However, Mahajan sought at least a month’s time to formulate a fool-proof policy after taking into account all legal issues.

“We are very keen to give the reservations, but we want to ensure that it’s done properly to withstand any legal challenges, or someone can bring a stay on it,” he argued.

The Marathas have also demanded immediate suspension of all the police personnel who carried out a  baton charge on the protestors and reiterated to continue the stir.

Earlier, rattled by the cascading effect of the Maratha unrest in the state for the past three days, the state government on Sunday opened the doors for negotiations with the agitating groups, as the Samyukta Kisan Morcha extended support to the protestors.

After Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s public assurance to ensure education and job quotas for Marathas, B JP’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called up Jarange, and said that the government does not endorse the police  baton charge on the protestors.

Later, Mahajan and Rane met the protestors in their tent in Antaravli-Sarati village where it all started on Friday evening, and spread all over the state.

On behalf of the state government, Mahajan submitted a tentative proposal for talks with the Marathas subject to the latter calling off the hunger strike first.

Simultaneously, Maharashtra Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Dr. Ashok Dhawale has strongly condemned the police action on the protesting Marathas, 90 per cent of whom are farmers and supporter their demands, ahead of the organisation’s convention in Mumbai on Tuesday.

On Saturday, three ex-Chief Ministers — Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena-UBT President Uddhav Thackeray, and Congress’ Ashok Chavan — had gone to Jalna and met the protestors, plus those who were injured in the police action.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray will on Monday go to Jalna and meet the Marathas to express solidarity with their cause.

The Maratha community in the state is furious after the aerial firing, baton charging and tear-gas shells being lobbed on the protestors in Jalna causing more than five dozen casualties including among the police.

Meanwhile, the Jalna police on Sunday clamped prohibitory orders for two weeks till September 17 in the entire district, banning assembly of five or more persons in view of the prevailing situation there.

Meanwhile, speaking at an official function in Buldhana on Sunday, Shinde reiterated his plea for peace and assured that the “state government is committed to extending education and job quotas to the Maratha community”.

He also urged the Maratha youth to beware of those trying to make political gain out of the situation, and said the government is holding meetings with the protestors and their demands are under consideration.

Shinde also took potshots at three Opposition ex-CMs who rushed to Jalna on Saturday for shedding ‘crocodile tears’ and doing nothing for the Marathas when their governments were in power — referring to Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) President Uddhav Thackeray, and Congress’ Ashok Chavan.

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