Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal on Friday reiterated that the existing reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) should not be curtailed while giving reservation to the Marathas, and also hit out at Maratha activist Manoj Jarange over his recent statements.
Speaking at a rally of OBC communities, the NCP leader asked how suddenly a number of records showing Marathas as belonging to the Kunbi caste were being found.
Bhujbal and several other prominent OBC leaders including Congress leaders Vijay Wadettiwar, Rajesh Rathod, BJP MLC Gopichand Padalkar, Prakash Shendge and Mahadev Jankar attended the `OBC Bhatke Vimukt Jaat Aarakshan Bachao Yalgaar Sabha' (rally for saving the reservation of OBCs and Nomadic Tribes) at Ambad in Jalna district of Maharashtra.
The event took place 25 km from the Antarwali Sarati village where Jarange had launched a hunger strike for the demand of Maratha quota first in August and again in October.
"OBCs have got reservation constitutionally and after an approval of the Supreme court. He (Jarange) says that we have taken away their (Maratha community) reservation for 70 years. Are we taking away something that belongs to Jarange's family?" Bhujbal said.
"We do not oppose Maratha reservation, but there should be no encroachment on the OBC quota," he added.
Bhujbal also questioned how suddenly records showing Maratha families as belonging to the Kunbi caste, an OBC community, were being discovered.
Following Jarange's hunger strike, the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government decided to give Kunbi caste certificates to those Marathas who could produce records of the erstwhile Hyderabad state where their ancestors were described as belonging to Kunbi community so that they can avail of OBC quota.
"Initially 5,000 records were found in Marathwada which was part of the Nizam's Hyderabad state (before 1948). Later the number went up to 13,500....Even when there were elections in Telangana, the number went up," Bhujbal said.
OBC leaders should hold such rallies in every taluka of the state, he said.
He also took a swipe at Jarange saying that after there was lathicharge on Maratha protesters at Antarwali Sarati in September, "he went home and slept".
"The truth of the incident (of lathicharge) did not come out. Police officers were suspended, which demoralized them. As a result, police did not act in the Beed city and Majalgaon (where the Maratha quota agitation turned violent last month)," the minister added.
A caste census should be conducted immediately and it would make the picture clear, Bhujbal said.
He also criticised Jarange's appeal to people not to allow political leaders to enter their villages till the Marathas got reservation. "There is democracy in the state. Do these people own the state? I appeal to the chief minister and deputy chief minister (Devendra Fadnavis who holds the home portfolio) that the boards saying no entry for leaders should be removed. Is there law and order or not?" he said.
Wadettiwar, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, said the demand of caste census should be taken up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"If there is encroachment in OBC reservation, we will not sit quiet," he warned.