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Maharashtra: ‘Maratha’ activist Jarange Patil threatens state, demands reservation for Muslims from OBC quota – Details

Jarange Patil demanded reservation for the Muslim community from the OBC quota. He said that Muslims who have Kunbi caste certificates should also be extended reservations in government jobs and education under the Other Backward Class quota in Maharashtra.

The issue of reservation for the Maratha community has been ongoing in Maharashtra for years with minimal solutions to date. There is a reason to decide the issue soon as the protests undertaken by the ‘Maratha activist’ Manoj Jarange Patil don’t seem to end. Patil has been on strike, demanding reservations for Marathas from the backward quota, since October 2023. The protests have also turned violent and caused damage to public property and vehicles in several districts of Maharashtra like Jalna, Pune, Beed, Dharashiv, etc. Houses of several NCP politicians were also set on fire by the demonstrators who expressed their anger and yelled slogans ‘Ek Maratha, Lakh Maratha’.

The state government led by CM Eknath Shinde, recently in January this year, accepted all the requests put forth by Jarange Patil and extended 10% reservation to Marathas above the 52% cap, further classifying Marathas as a socially and educationally backward class (SEBC). While Jarange Patil declared to end his strike after this, he began a fresh protest in June this year demanding the implementation of a draft notification that recognises all blood relatives of Maratha community members as Kunbis, an agrarian group classified as another backward class (OBC) community, who are eligible for reservation. “I will not give up until the Maratha reservation is granted,” Patil was quoted as saying.

Shinde assured solution to the problem and approved 10% reservation to Maratha community

Patil also demanded that a law be enacted to designate Kunbis as Marathas, and he threatened to field candidates for all 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra in the forthcoming State election if his demands were not met.

If these threats of his were not enough, the activist, who earlier was believed to have been raising his voice for the Maratha community, has now started protesting and threatening the government to provide reservations to the Muslim community as well.

Muslims should get a reservation from OBC quota: Jarange Patil

On Monday (24th June), in a major setback to the OBC community in the state, Jarange Patil demanded reservation for the Muslim community from the OBC quota. He said that Muslims who have Kunbi caste certificates should also be extended reservations in government jobs and education under the Other Backward Class quota in Maharashtra.

“There are government records that show that the Muslims are also part of Kunbi castes. When these records prove that they are also farmers and belong to the Kunbi community, then Muslims should also be given reservations from the OBC quota. Muslims should not be facing injustice,” Jarange Patil was quoted as saying.

This comes after as per Jarange Patil, Pasha Patel, BJP leader’s record showed that he was a Kunbi. “If there are such records, then all Muslims should get a reservation from the OBC quota. I will see how they don’t get their rights,” he threatened.

BJP leader Pasha Patel

Demanding reservations for the Maratha community could be understood as the issue has been ongoing for over 32 years now and several political parties and activists have made attempts to find a solution to the issue. However, why is Jarange Patil interested in issuing reservations for the Muslim community, which in fact is a separate religion and not a Hindu caste like that of Marathas? Jarange Patil’s stance, in this case, is seen as a ploy to annoy OBCs, who are already apprehensive about losing their reservation in light of calls for blanket reservation for the Maratha group from their quota.

OBC leaders oppose Jarange Patil’s demand for Muslim reservation, call it a separate religion

After Jarange Patil’s demand for Muslim reservations, OBC activist Laxman Hake, who has been protesting to for the OBC community, said that the Muslim community is being seen as a religion and some of the castes from their community who fall under OBC quota are already getting the reservation. “Hinduism is divided into social hierarchies, but the Muslim community is seen as a religion,” he said.

BJP leader Nitesh Rane also opposed the demand made by Jarange Patil saying that our Constitution does not allow giving reservations based on religion. “Our Constitution does not allow giving reservations on religious grounds. Jarange Patil may not be aware that the reservation can be granted only on the backwardness of a caste,” he said.

OBC leader Chagan Bhujpal (NCP-Ajit Pawar) also slammed Jarange Patil for demanding reservation for Muslims from the OBC quota. According to Bhujbal, the activist knows nothing about reservations in the state, thus he is unaware that Muslims have received reservation advantages under the OBC quota for the previous 25 years. “Many castes among Muslims have been getting reservations under the OBC quota,” said Bhujbal alleging that he was being targeted by Jarange Patil for no reason. However, he also said that he was not scared of anybody.

OBC leader Chagan Bhujbal (L)

Apart from Bhujbal, Jarange Patil has also received criticism from the revenue minister and BJP Maratha leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who stated that the Maratha quota protest had lost direction. “Jarange Patil is not the only representative of Marathas. The government has already given a separate reservation of 10% to Marathas. The government has also started deliberations on reservations for Marathas and OBCs,” Vikhe Patil said.

It is important to note that the state had approved a 10% reservation to the Maratha community over and above the 52% existing quota which already includes 10% reservations for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS). Jarange Patil is asking for a reservation for a separate religion now. But won’t giving Muslims space in this specified quota be unfair to Marathas and OBCs (given no clarity over demands of separate reservations for the community)?  

Muslim reservation- a contentious issue; Bombay HC knocking down a portion

The issue of reservation for Muslims was also raised before the year 2014 when the Congress-NCP government was in power in the state. The government then announced a 5% reservation for the Muslim population in government posts and education.

However, the Bombay High Court knocked down portions of the regulation. It eliminated reservation provisions in government positions while allowing them in education. The decision was rejected by the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government when it took office in 2014, stating that they are opposed to religious reservations.

Muslim leaders, Samajwadi Party, NCP (Sharad Pawar) making demands for 5% Muslim reservations

Now, apart from Jarange Patil, after the state approved reservations for the Maratha community, several Muslim leaders also started demanding reservations for Muslims. On February 20th, Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Rais Shaikh had written to CM Eknath Shinde demanding a 5% reservation for Muslims at the earliest. He said this was necessary to eradicate the backwardness of the community and to bring them into the path of mainstream development. 

He mentioned that the NCP-Congress government had approved a 5% quota for Muslims but its implementation never happened. “It is a gross injustice to the Muslim community, which has been fighting for their rightful reservation for decades. There is a lot of resentment among the community for not getting our due. It is high time that the government must provide reservation to the community,” said Shaikh in the letter.

“Around 50 sub-castes in the community will benefit from the reservation. The demand for reservation is based on the economic and social backwardness of the community. We hope that the government will give the rightful reservation to us,” he had added.

SP MLA Rais Shaikh

Shaikh also stated that Marathas should get separate reservations and that the OBC quota shouldn’t be touched. However, the leader selectively forgot that the Muslim community has been benefitting from the reservation for 25 years. Those Muslims falling under the OBC category are getting all the benefits of the government reservations.

Saleem Sarang, vice-president of the NCP, issued warnings on June 9th to protest if the state government failed to provide Muslims with 5% reservation in educational institutes, as partially allowed by the Bombay High Court. “The BJP has no qualms in joining hands with Chandrababu Naidu of TDP whose pro-Muslim reservation stand is well-known. So, why should the BJP oppose it if the Mahayuti government gives Muslim quota?” Saleem was quoted as saying.

Arif Naseem Khan, a former state minister, has also demanded Muslim reservations. Khan stated that the BJP is allied with the TDP at the center, which supports Muslim reservations. “N Chandrababu Naidu’s son and TDP’s general secretary, N Lokesh, has announced that the TDP government will continue with the 4% Muslim reservation. In Maharashtra, our government had given a 5% quota to Muslims on the basis of educational and economic backwardness. The government must restore this reservation along with the quota for Maratha and Dhangar communities,” said Khan. 

Earlier in December 2023, NCP (Sharad Pawar) MLA from Baramati constituency had demanded reservation for Muslims. While raising the issue of Maratha reservations, the leader said that there was a need to find an amicable solution to the issue of reservations for Maratha, Dhangar, Lingayat, and the Muslim community in Maharashtra. The leader again, selectively happened to forget that Islam is a separate religion while Maratha, Dhangar, and Lingayat are castes and that religion-based reservation is not allowed by the Constitution.

What the Indian Constitution says about religion-based reservations

The Indian Constitution moved toward equity, which ensures justice and may necessitate differential treatment or special measures for certain groups.

The Constitution removed the term ‘minorities’ from Article 296 (Article 335 of the current Constitution), but included Article 16(4), which allows the state to make “any provision for …reservation…in favor of any backward class of citizens which…is not adequately represented in the services under the state.”

Article 15(4) of the first constitutional amendment enabled the state to make “any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”.

Article 15 clearly prohibits the state from discriminating against residents based only on religion and caste (as well as gender, race, and place of birth). Following the Supreme Court’s decision in the State of Kerala vs N M Thomas (1975), reservation is viewed as an extension of equality rather than an exception to Articles 15(1) and 16(1)’s equality/non-discrimination clauses.

Representative Image- Indian Express

The key word in Articles 15 and 16 is ‘only’, which means that if a religious, racial, or caste group is considered a “weaker section” under Article 46, or a backward class, it is entitled to special provisions for advancement.

Some Muslim castes receive reservations not because they are Muslims, but because they were classified as backward, and reservation in many states has been granted without affecting the quota for SCs, STs, and OBCs by establishing a sub-quota within the OBCs. At present, there are 14 states and UTs in India where Muslim communities are included in the quota list, based on social and economic backwardness.

Probable reasons why Jarange Patil is allegedly becoming the voice of Muslims

This is actually as surprising as it looks. Jarange Patil, who was to date raising his voice for the Maratha community, is now worried about the ‘so-called’ injustice happening to the Muslim community. Further, it is important to note that the protests regarding the Maratha reservation became prominent and massively violent probably only when the BJP government ruled the state, be it in the year 2014 or 2023-24.

Further, the outcomes of the current Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra saw Muslims supporting the parties other than the BJP. The ruling party was unable to secure a majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections due to this. The Shiv Sena, led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, won 7 seats and the BJP won 9, while parties with Muslim and Communist support, such as the NCP (Sharad Pawar), Indian National Congress, and Shiv Sena (UBT), gained 8, 13, and 9 seats, respectively. This clearly shows that Muslims in the state of Maharashtra voted for any party standing against BJP.

Given Jarange Patil’s previous association with Congress and his current sympathies for the Muslim community, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that Patil’s move is probably to raise mass appeal in support of the NCP (Sharad Pawar), Shiv Sena (UBT) and Indian National Congress ahead of the State Assembly Elections under the guise of fighting for Maratha reservation.

If not, what exactly made him start fresh protests in June over the ‘Maratha reservation’ after the state approved 10% reservations over existing 52% in February this year? What made him suddenly talk about Muslim reservations when the community has already been benefiting from the OBC quota for years? What made him suddenly think of Muslim reservations in the first place, given his no direct association with the community?

As several leaders opine, Jarange Patil has seemingly lost direction while primarily fighting for the Maratha quota in the state. He has also issued threats to the government saying he would see how the state fails to provide reservation to the Muslim community. This is alarming in itself and probably the situation needs immediate attention from the Centre.

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Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani is known for her satirical and factual hand in Economic, Social and Political writing. Having completed her post graduation in Journalism, she is pursuing her Masters in Politics. The author meanwhile is also exploring her hand in analytics and statistics. (Twitter- @sidis28)

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