Mumbai: NCP president Sharad Pawar today said the constitutional process for grant of reservation to the Maratha community would need time, and agitators must keep this in mind and desist from indulging in violence.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Maharashtra government had taken a similar stand earlier, saying it needs time to fulfil the Marathas' quota demand by following the legal procedure.
"Once an agitation is started, one must also know when to stop it. I congratulate (the agitators) for thinking of this. The agitation has brought the Maratha community's strong sentiments to the fore. Constitutional procedures are needed to be completed for fulfilling the demand. For that appropriate period of time is necessary," Pawar said in a signed statement issued today.
For this process to be completed by the government and legislature, "peace is necessary", the former Union minister, himself a Maratha, said.
"Also, it must be ensured that the industry in the state is not harmed due to the agitation. Such an agitation will put a stop to investment in industry and the problem of unemployment will worsen. Therefore, peace must be the top priority for Maratha agitators," the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief said.
The agitation must be carried out without any "prejudices", and reservation must be granted to the Marathas without reducing the quota granted to other communities under the Constitution, Pawar stressed.
The government and some "vested interests" are trying to malign the agitation and divide the Marathas and other communities (who fall in the reserved category), he alleged.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who is the idol of Maratha agitators, took along all communities when he created his sovereign state, Pawar noted.
Noting that the agitation was initially peaceful which earned the community a lot of goodwill, Pawar said "loss of that goodwill due to the latest incidents of violence is not a good development".
On Friday, Maratha Kranti Morcha and Sakal Maratha Samaj, which are spearheading the agitation, had distanced themselves from incidents of violence in Pune and Aurangabad on August 9. The agitation has witnessed incidents of violence including stone-pelting and arson at many places since the last week of July.
Citing a report of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pawar noted that due to fragmentation of land, farming is no longer profitable.
Because of the resultant poverty, the Maratha youth do not get education and remain unemployed, he said.
Twenty-eight per cent of Marathas are landless while 53 per cent are marginal land holders. Forty-six per cent of farmers who have committed suicide are Maratha, he said, adding that lack of irrigation has made the problem worse.
But though it was natural for Maratha youth to be angry, "arson, stone-pelting or suicide is no solution", he added.
While the Marathas are demanding 16 per cent quota in jobs and education, the BJP-led state government has been maintaining that it needs time to fulfil the demand in such a way that it stands the legal scrutiny.