The Maratha Morcha, an apparently spontaneous series of mass protests, became a major talking point last year after a girl from the community was raped and murdered in Kopardi. Prathmesh Patil talks to the representatives of the Morchas, Tushar Kale (TK), from Pune and Prashant Bhosale (PB) from Sangli, regarding the inauguration of SARTHI and other issues of the community.
Q: What were the issues that triggered the morchas?
PB/TK: The Kopardi incident was just a trigger to the underlying anger of the community. The anger was not against any particular community but against such cruel tendencies. The major issues were the implementation of Swaminathan Commission, formation of SARTHI on the lines of BARTI, reservations as OBC, construction of Shivsmarak, stopping misuse of Atrocity Act etc.
Q: What is the status of these demands? Has the government delivered?
PB: The government has completely failed us. It did take a few positive steps towards realising the reservations but then kept the issue hanging. If they wanted, they can push legislation in 8 days. The Supreme Court gave a rethink to the Atrocity Act and provided anticipatory bail in the act.
Q: Did Maratha organisations carry out any studies to support the claim of fake atrocities?
PB: We have data. In Sangli district, where I am from, 116 cases were filed under Atrocity Act from 2014 to 2018. Of them, only 1 was convicted and 18 were proved not guilty. Other cases remain pending…
Q: But that is not strong enough to prove the misuse of the act…
PB: Yes, but the law was used many times to threaten and extort money. We don’t want the act to be abolished. Not all Marathas oppress the Dalits and not all Dalits misuse the act. The small number of people from both communities do something and that causes a rift between lakhs who have no issues with each other. The issues should be solved through Tantamukti Samitis at the village level and one member of each community should be on the committee to avoid bias.
Q: The Chief Minister tried to present a Maratha friendly image at the inauguration of SARTHI.
TK: The Chief Minister is lying when he claimed about giving the community sops like 50 pc concession in college fees. Many ministers like Chandrakant Patil repeated the claim. But we’re getting calls from across the state and not a single college has implemented the concession. Many students from the poor families go to these colleges and are turned away for not having enough money. Many hidden clauses have been introduced and courses like MBBS, BDS etc have been exempted from the concession. This is clearly misleading of the community.
Q: The government has made the wrong claim? What other issues did the government address?
PB: The CM proclaimed that the Maratha community will be given exclusive reservations.
But if you see the programmes, they are open to all economically backward communities. In 2016-17, the government GR mentions of legitimising 3,18,883 beneficiaries at the cost of 888 crore rupees. In the year 17-18, only 1,72,694 students are eligible at the cost of 408 crores. There is debate on whether to give the concession amount to colleges’ or students’ accounts. The Annasaheb Patil Arthik Vikas Mahamandal is facing issues.
Q: Could you explain the issue?
PB: The Mahamandal is supposed to provide finance for young Maratha entrepreneurs. It is open to all communities when there are 11 such mandals working for those communities.
The government has kept a clause of CIBIL score for the loans. How can the farmer who is committing suicide have a good CIBIL score? The government is not giving guarantees to the banks of paying interests on these loans. Today the farmer is committing suicides, tomorrow the youths will in such a case.
Q: Who is the community looking towards in the run-up to the 2019 elections?
TK: Even the opposition is responsible for the situation. They are using the unrest in the community to gain power. If the BJP corrects its mistakes and delivers on its promises, we would choose them, but otherwise, the community might end up using NOTA on a mass scale.
Those who used the community to rise up and then ignored the issues will be ignored. The Maratha youths have awakened and they will ally with the oppressed of the other communities beyond caste and religion and give a united fight.