War for quota to intensify as other communities step in
Other backward classes (OBCs) fear their right might be compromised to accommodate Marathas
When it comes to communal harmony, we generally limit our discussions to the relations, strained or eased, between people of different religions. What Maharashtra is experiencing now, is simmering tension between various communities that belong to the same religion - Hindu. As the rules of the game establish, relations spoil when the people involved talk of their respective benefits, and their fight for the cause, which might be rightful in their own perspectives; but ultimately creates an impression that they would not desist from eating into the other's share. The Maratha quota stir has exactly done this to the other Hindu castes, which have been enjoying reservation, or are now waging their own battle for it.
As constitutional arrangements don't allow states' quota to go beyond a certain cap, fear has gripped the other backward classes (OBCs), that their right might be compromised to accommodate the Marathas. The BJP government is aware of this, and was very prompt in declaring sops for OBCs last week. Wooing OBCs is much easier than getting the Marathas on board, because of the ongoing case in the Bombay High Court. It seems the BJP will rely immensely on OBCs in its attempt for regaining power next year.
Marathas' loss of sympathy
The Marathas are under attack from all quarters, even from their rational members, for vandalising commercial units that provided jobs in Aurangabad, which is a Maratha-dominated region of the state. The industry has threatened to shut shop there, citing loss of R100-cr on August 9, the day the agitation turned destructive. The violent protest in Marathwada and elsewhere, barring Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kolhapur, has brought forth a lack of decisive leadership for the Maratha agitation. The community faced opposition from other equally strong communities when it went out to enforce the bandh. The call for agitation in Navi Mumbai was withdrawn well in advance, because the local Agris hadn't approved of the excesses in last month's Maratha protest. In other places, the Maratha splinters went haywire and defamed the community that had set an example with silent marches two years ago. The Marathas, who understand the repercussions of the 'muuk' (silent) morchas turning into the 'thok' (hit) protests, are extremely worried and have disowned the unruly. The only way to get the Maratha agitation back on track should be to reorganise, get a sensible leadership and reform the manner of protest.
More of it coming
The BJP government had promised quota also to the Dhangars who are as restive following the inordinate delay. The Lingayats have also been asking for a religious minority status. The Muslim community is irked because the BJP government has denied it quota which the HC had cleared while dismissing reservation for the Marathas. The Dhangars will take to the streets from Monday to demand a share in the scheduled tribe (ST) category. But that agitation shouldn't go on for long, because it is spearheaded by a BJP member of Rajya Sabha from Nagpur, Dr Vikas Mahatme. The same MP who failed to take on the community's cause, when the government had stopped them (Dhangars) from exporting goats/lambs from Nagpur to the Gulf countries, just because a religious minority with a significant influence in BJP, was opposed to the business idea.
The Muslims haven't decided the course of action yet, but it is for sure that the community will use the ballot to express their anger against the government. The BJP shouldn't mind the Muslim outrage as it has been playing smartly to consolidate other communities in its favour. Most importantly, the BJP has taken a big leap to appease communities that accuse the upper caste of atrocities by retaining the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of atrocities) law in its original form. Mind you, the Maratha agitation's first-ever demand raised two years ago after the brutal rape of a Maratha teenager in Kopardi by Dalit youths, was for diluting the atrocity law to prevent its misuse. That's politics for you.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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