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Maharashtra Bans Gatherings in 2 Districts After Quota Violence

Marathwada has become the epicentre of violence as houses and offices of MLAs and state transport buses were torched.
The bungalows of two sitting NCP MLAs, Prakash Solanke (Ajit Pawar faction) and Sandeep Kshirsagar (Sharad Pawar faction) were set on fire in Beed district.

The bungalows of two sitting NCP MLAs, Prakash Solanke (Ajit Pawar faction) and Sandeep Kshirsagar (Sharad Pawar faction) were set on fire in Beed district. Image Courtesy: PTI

The Maharashtra government has banned gatherings in Beed and Dharashiv districts with the Maratha quota protests turning violent on Monday.

The Maratha community, comprising around 35% of the state’s population, are demanding quota as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) .

The earlier Devendra Fadnavis government allowed 16% reservation to Marathas, but the Bombay High Court reduced it to 13% in jobs and 12% in education. In 2021, the Supreme Court quashed the Maratha quota stating that the state reservation can’t breach the 50% limit.

The current situation started after community leader Manoj Jarange Patil started an indefinite fast demanding OBC status. The situation turned serious when the police lathi-charged protesters earlier this month.

When chief minister Eknath Shinde announced that Marathas in Marathwada will be given OBC status as Kunbis (a Maratha subcaste classified as OBCs) if they prove their families were classified as Kunbis in the pre-independence Nizam-era rule. However, Patil wants Kunbi status for all Marathas irrespective of possessing Nizam-era proof.

The protests turned violent on Monday with the Marathwada region becoming the epicentre where houses and offices of MLAs and state transport buses in Solapur and Pandharpur were torched, tyres burnt on roads and offices of political parties pelted with stones, the Deccan Herald reported.

The Beed house of Ajit Pawar NCP faction MLA Prakash Solanke, the office of the Sharad Pawar NCP faction and the Municipal House building in Beed were set ablaze, NDTV reported.

In a widely circulated audio, Solanke is purportedly heard calling the quota demand a “child's game” and taking a dig at Patil. “The person who has not even contested a gram panchayat election [Patil] has become a smart person today,” he says.

Solanke told the media, “I was inside my home when it was attacked. Fortunately, none of my family members or staff were injured. We are all safe but there is a huge loss of property due to fire.”

The office of NCP MLA Sandeep Kshirsagar and the house of his uncle and former minister Jaydutt Kshirsagar, a Shiv Sena leader, were also torched.

Besides, the office of BJP MLA Prashant Bamb at Gangapur, in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar district, was vandalised. In Beed, former minister Jaydattaji Kshirsagar’s office was also set ablaze.

Though the reason for the violence was not immediately clear, more than 400 Maratha-dominated villages had banned the entry of politicians over the reservation issue while some passed resolutions to boycott the upcoming election.

Security has been stepped up outside the houses of NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and Union minister Narayan Rane.

At least, 49 people have been arrested in Beed, superintendent of police Nandkumar Thakur told PTI.

On Monday night, Shinde discussed the law and order situation with governor Ramesh Bais and his deputy Fadnavis.

A delegation of the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi also met Bais seeking his intervention and urged for calling a Special Assembly Session.

“Jarange Patil, his team and the Sakal Maratha Samaj would need to ensure that the protest does not go violent,” Shinde told the media.

According to NDTV, Shinde will likely accept the report of a committee led by retired Judge Sandeep Shinde on how to issue Kunbi caste certificates to Marathas.

The Sharad Pawar NCP faction termed arson as “complete failure of the (state) home minister [Fadnavis]”.

“This is the failure of the triple-engine government in Maharashtra. Today, the MLA’s house is set on fire ... what is the home minister doing? It is his responsibility,” Baramati MP and NCP National Working president Supriya Sule said.

Meanwhile, BJP’s Georai MLA Laxman Pawar and Shiv Sena’s Hingoli MP Hemant Patil resigned. Later, Shiv Sena’s Hemant Godse resigned in support of the Maratha demand. “Considering the strong feelings of the Maratha community, I am resigning as an MP,” Godse wrote in his resignation letter sent to Shinde and asked him to clarify his position on the issue, The Indian Express reported.

NCP’s Junnar MLA Atul Benke said that he was ready to resign.

State Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe targeted Shinde “When Rome was burning, its king Nero was busy playing flute. The same way, Fadnavis is busy in election campaign in Chhattisgarh when Maratha youths are on road and fighting for reservations,” he said.

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