Mumbai: After the Maratha quota stir, it is the turn of the Dhangar community to take to the streets. It will do so on Monday by enforcing a road blockade on the occasion of death anniversary of Punyashlok Ahilyabai Holkar, who belonged to the shepherd community.
In an ominous warning of what lies ahead, a member of the community — Yogesh Radhakishan Karke (20) – who was residing in Parbhani district, committed suicide on Sunday afternoon by hanging himself at his home. Perchance, Karke had texted a message to one B Shinde that he is committing suicide over the reservation issue, but his message remained unsent in his outbox. “It might be because the mobile network was down,” said a police official. The suicide on the eve of the agitation is expected to give a fillip to the Dhangar stir for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes. Incidentally, it was a poll pledge of the BJP that it will pull them out of the existing Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes category and give them the ST tag, which will lead to enhanced benefits.
In a way, it is a replay of the Maratha reservation agitation. A meeting was held with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on August 10; the CM was positive but did not say how he intends to go about resolving the issue; nor did he give a definite timeline within which the community will get ST reservation. ‘‘He did not give any deadline and hence there is unrest within the community,” said Dr Vikas Mahatme, a Rajya Sabha member of the BJP and president of the Dhangar Sangharsh Samiti.
“If the government dithers, we will lose our patience and hence we have decided to hold a protest on August 13, the death anniversary of our beloved queen Ahilyadevi Holkar,” Dr Mahatme added. He said the community will block roads and highways in each tehsil across the state as a token of protest. Dr Mahatme has assured, however, that the protest will be peaceful and there won’t be any violence. If one jogs one’s memories, similar claims were made about the Maratha reservation stir.
Incidentally, the Centre already provides quota benefits to Dhangad community, but Dhangars in Maharashtra were left out of the ambit because of the different spellings. After the Opposition and the community exerted pressure, the government roped in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to grapple with the complex issue. ‘‘The TISS report is expected to be submitted to the state this month,” the CM said recently. So, yet another agitation, and another report!