Maharashtra: All-Party Meeting In Mumbai Over Maratha Quota Demand - What Is The Issue About?

The Maharashtra government has conducted several rounds of discussions with Jarange Patil, who has been on a hunger strike over the demand for reservation, but they have been inconclusive so far.

Maratha Kranti Morcha activists raise slogans during a protest over reservation

An all-party meeting has been convened in Mumbai today to discuss the Maratha quota issue, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar announced. The announcement comes days after Maratha quota activist Jarange Patil rejected the government’s resolution on the demand.

Patil has been on hunger strike for the past 13 days demanding Kunbi status, which effectively means OBC quota, for all Marathas.

Addressing a rally in Kolhapur city of Maharashtra on Sunday Pawar said several people from the Maratha community were rich but many were poor and needed help. "While giving the reservation to the Maratha community, it must be ensured that Other Backward Classes are not affected. Only discussions and meetings will solve this issue," Ajit Pawar added.

The government has conducted several rounds of discussions with Jarange but they have remained inconclusive so far.

What Is The Maratha Reservation Issue?

The Marathas, historically referred to as ‘warriors’, are a group of clans comprising peasants and landowners among others. They constitute about 33 per cent of the state’s population. 

Jarange Patil and supporters are protesting against the state government’s demand for a certificate to prove they are Kunbis. According to Jarange Patil, until the Nizam rule was dismantled in September 1948 in central Maharashtra, the Marathas were considered Kunbis, and were effectively OBCs.

Meanwhile, OBC groups fear that if Marathas are included in the OBC list, their share of reservation will be eaten into by the entrants and they are not willing to give up their portion.

The Kunbis have also opposed the quota demand saying certificates should not be given to all Marathas.

What Supreme Court Said On Maratha Quota

The Maratha community were initially granted reservation under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act of 2018. However, the Supreme Court later invalidated it.

In 2021, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court struck down reservations for Marathas, terming it unconstitutional as it violated the 50 per cent limit on reservations and the 102nd Amendment. The top court had observed that the community was not socially or educationally backward to be eligible within the ambit of affirmative action.

The Supreme Court has refused to re-examine the decision.

Maratha Outfit Calls ‘Bandh’ 

Meanwhile, the Sakal Maratha Morcha, a Maratha outfit in Thane backed by the Sambhaji Brigade, called a 'bandh' today condemning the recent police lathi-charge against agitators in Jalna. Local leaders from the opposition parties in the state also declared support for the strike after a meeting.

The NCP (Sharad Pawar faction) city unit president Suhas Desai, his Shiv Sena (UBT) counterpart Pradeep Shinde, MNS leaders Ravindra More, Avinash Jadhav, Maratha Kranti Morcha's city chief Ramesh Ambre and Congress' city president Vikrant Chavan were in the meeting. 

An agitation seeking the Maratha reservation had turned violent at Antarwali Sarathi village in Jalna district earlier this month, leading to many people, including dozens of police personnel, getting injured. 

Police resorted to lathi-charge and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse a violent mob that allegedly refused to let authorities shift a man on a hunger strike as part of the quota stir to the hospital.