As the 40-day deadline he set before the Maharashtra government to implement Maratha reservation came to an end, activist Manoj Jarange on Wednesday launched his indefinite fast to press for the demand for quota to the community.
Expressing disappointment over the state government’s “failure” to take steps to provide reservation to the Maratha community, 40-year-old Jarange began his stir at his native Antarwali Sarati village in Ambad tehsil of Jalna district in the morning. He said he had given ample time to the government and would not wait any longer now.
He accused the government of inciting certain individuals against the Maratha community over its “rightful demand”, and claimed that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was being pressured by someone to deny reservation to Marathas.
Speaking to reporters during the fast, he said, “I had given the government a 40-day ultimatum to fulfil their promise regarding Maratha reservation. The government’s lack of response left me with no choice but to resort to this extreme form of protest.”
“Maharashtra chief minister had asked me to wait for 40 days so that the government takes a decision on Maratha reservation. But he did not do it, therefore I have decided to start a fast-unto-death in my village,” he said.
Similar protests, including chain hunger strikes and candle marches, have started across the state to put pressure on the government, he said.
Jarange had observed a hunger strike in the same village in September demanding that the Maratha community be granted reservation in government jobs and education under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. The protest, which began on August 29, was called off on September 14 after CM Shinde held talks with him. At that time, Jarange had set a 40-day deadline (till October 24) before the government for the grant of quota.
On September 1, violence broke out at Antarwali Sarati village after protesters allegedly refused to let authorities shift Jarange to a hospital during his hunger strike for the Maratha quota demand. The police baton-charged and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse a violent mob. Several persons, including 40 police personnel, were injured and more than 15 state transport buses set ablaze in the violence.
Jarange further said, “I was told that the police cases filed against the Maratha community protesters across the state would be withdrawn within two days. Forty-one days have elapsed since this assurance was given, but not a single case has been withdrawn. It means the state is deliberately misleading the Maratha community.”
Also the promise of giving compensation or jobs to the family members of those who committed suicide for the Maratha reservation cause has not been fulfilled so far, he alleged.