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MNS chief Raj Thackeray slams Maratha agitation, caste-based reservation

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 3 October 2016, 15:40 IST

The biggest issue worrying politicians in Maharashtra today are the silent Maratha rallies that are being held in every major city of the state. Millions are attending the rallies, but no political leader has been allowed to get any mileage out of the situation because the organisers have categorically kept all parties at a bay.

So on the one hand, there are visibly upset politicians who are frantically trying to woo the community.

Also read - Why the silent Marathas deserve a hearing

On the other, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has taken a completely contradicting stand on the issue.

On the agitation

Addressing party office bearers in Thane, near Mumbai on 2 October, party president Raj Thackeray came down heavily on those demanding Maratha reservation and strongly opposed it. "I am strictly against caste based reservations. Economically weaker sections of the society, irrespective of caste, should be given reservation. Politics is rife over the issue. Everyone is trying to gain out of it. This is nothing but dividing the society," he said.

He pointed to how Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders who have been in power for more than a decade are jumping into the fray to demand reservation for the Maratha community - even though the could have made the decision to give the community reservation while they were in power.

"I personally don't believe in caste. Majority of the MLAs and chief ministers of the state were Marathas since formation of the state. Despite that, the Maratha community has not grown economically. Interestingly, there is not a single leader or political party that is against Maratha reservation. Still, it can't be implemented. Everyone, including Sharad Pawar knows the reason. Yet they are misleading Maratha community," Thackeray said.

"All those supporting the Maratha reservation are only concerned about their vote bank and the forthcoming civic elections," he said.

On the Atrocities Act

In his speech, Thackeray claimed that it was he who has raised the issue of amendment in the SC the ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 for the first time, before it Sharad Pawar picked up on it. "It was only after the humongous Maratha rallies, it dawned on Pawar that misuse of the Act was a major issue and needed urgent attention. He has nothing to do with the community, he is only interested in votes."

Thackeray also appealed the party office bearers not let politicians exploit them in the name of caste. "It is dividing the society. I completely support amendment in the Act. It has been grossly misused. In majority of cases, the allegations turn out to be false. This is the most dangerous aspect of the Act. It is being used as a weapon to overpower upper caste people and also to force them to back out. Such threats are causing polarisation of the society," he said.

Shiv Sena cartoon

Last week, it was the Shiv Sena that had been criticised for its stand on the Maratha agitation. There was uproar over and allegedly derogatory cartoon that was published in the party's mouthpiece Saamna.

The cartoon evoked sharp reactions from Maratha community and Uddhav Thackeray was forced to apologise.

Edited by Aleesha Matharu

More in Catch - Maharashtra govt bows to Maratha pressure, forms committees to discuss demands

Maratha Kranti Morcha's silent rallies: Will it actually amount to anything?

First published: 3 October 2016, 15:40 IST