On Tuesday, Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange said he was ready to end his indefinite hunger strike, but he would not leave the protest site until the state government started issuing Kunbi caste certificates to the Maratha community from the Marathwada region.
He also said that he is giving one month's time to the Maharashtra government so that the state-appointed committee can prepare its report on the Maratha reservation.
Addressing a gathering at the protest site on Tuesday afternoon, Jarange reportedly said, "I am ready to give the state government one month's time so that the committee prepares a report. I have made it clear to the state government that whether its report is positive or negative, it will have to start issuing Kunbi caste certificates to the Maratha community."
"I am walking two steps backwards so that the defamation of my community stops. I am ready to withdraw my fast, but I will not vacate this place," he said.
Further, he claimed that their community gave the state government 40 years to deal with their problems, and the people in power haven't dealt with them. According to Jarange, who became known as the face of the Maratha reservation protests, if the government does not fulfil its promise, it will be in a dead end. However, Jarange maintained that he would continue his protest as there has been no concrete decision from the state government over his demand for quota for the Maratha community.
"I will continue my fast until the state government comes with an order offering reservation to the Maratha community. I would be the only protester who forced the state government to take back its faulty order. I want a permanent solution to this mess," Jarange told reporters earlier in the day.
On Tuesday, state minister Sandipan Bhumre and Shiv Sena leader from Jalna Arjun Khotkar met Jarange and shared the resolutions passed at the all-party meeting. Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide also met and requested him to withdraw his fast.
What did CM Eknath Shinde say?
In view of the ongoing Maratha quota agitation led by Jarange, State Chief Minister Eknath Shinde chaired an all-party meeting in Mumbai on Monday. Shinde later said all parties attending the meeting passed a resolution requesting Jarange to withdraw his fast.
The CM announced the withdrawal of police cases filed against pro-Maratha reservation protesters in Jalna district, the epicentre of the latest round of stirs on the issue.
He also announced the suspension of three police officials involved in a lathi-charge on quota agitators in Jalna earlier this month.
Who is Manoj Jarange and what is he protesting for?
Manoj Jarange is aged around 40 and has been on an indefinite hunger strike since August 29 at Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna district of central Maharashtra, more than 400 kms from Mumbai, demanding reservation in jobs and education under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category for the Maratha community.
The state government has set up a five-member panel headed by Judge Sandeep Shinde (retired) to determine the Standard Operating Procedures, including legal and administrative framework, for giving caste certificates to Maratha community members referred to as Kunbis (part of OBCs now) in Nizam-era documents. This will allow Marathas from the Marathwada region to avail of quota benefits under the OBC category.
Marathwada region comprises eight districts - Aurangabad, Beed, Hingoli, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, Osmanabad and Parbhani.