Maratha quota protest leader Manoj Jarange Patil on Friday gave a deadline of 11 am on Saturday for the Eknath Shinde's government to agree to his demand to grant reservation to Marathas under the OBC grouping in jobs and education.
If the government doesn't meet their demand, Jarange has threatened to go to Mumbai's Azad Maidan for a big protest. While speaking to the media, the Maratha leader said, "I'll make my decision tomorrow at 12 pm, but if I go to Azad Maidan, I won't change my mind."
Jarange insists that the protest won't stop until the Maratha community gets reserved seats in government jobs and education. However, Maharashtra minister Deepak Kesarkar claims that the government has accepted Jarange's demands.
Jarange spoke to the protesters in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, after meeting with a government group. He mentioned getting some documents from them, which he will discuss with his supporters to decide what to do next.
"There's no turning back...": Jarange
"There's no turning back on the protest until we get reservation," Jarange emphasized.
The government is trying to convince Jarange not to go to Mumbai. Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar assured reporters that Jarange's demands are accepted and will be fulfilled according to the government's process.
Jarange on Friday made a fresh demand that the Maharashtra government amend its free education policy to include all Marathas until the benefit of reservation becomes available for the entire community.
Addressing a rally at Shivaji Chowk in Vashi area of neighbouring Navi Mumbai where he arrived in the morning with thousands of his supporters, Jarange said he will stay put in Navi Mumbai for the day.
"I am taking a step backward," the 40-year-old activist said, adding that he had stopped having food from Friday and was taking only water.
"If an ordinance (to meet his various demands) is not promulgated tonight, I will come to Mumbai tomorrow," he said.
"I will take decision on going to Azad Maidan (in Mumbai) tomorrow at noon. Once I set out, there will be no turning back," the activist warned.
The free education policy should be amended so that boys also get free education besides girls, and all Marathas should get free education "from KG to PG" (kindergarten to post-graduation) until the entire community gets reservation, he said.
Currently, 37 lakh Kunbi certificates have been given, and this number will increase to 50 lakh. Kunbi refers to Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Earlier, Jarange reached Navi Mumbai with thousands of supporters to push for Maratha community reservation.
The Mumbai Police told Jarange he can't hold a hunger strike in the city. Instead, they suggested gathering at the International Corporation Park Ground in Navi Mumbai after seeking permission.
The police warned that not following this notice could lead to contempt of court orders. They explained that the Shivaji Park ground is not big enough, and the court directed them to ensure the protest doesn't disturb the public in Mumbai. Navi Mumbai police also asked Jarange to change his march route because it passes by a hospital.
(With inputs from agency)