Jalna: Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday met Maratha quota agitators injured in police action a day earlier in Ambad tehsil in Jalna and sought removal of the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations.
He also said the issues of "caste census" as well as the removal of quota cap were discussed in the meeting of opposition bloc INDIA that took place in Mumbai on Thursday and Friday.
Pawar said agitators told him "a call from the higher-ups" changed the attitude of the police at the protest site in Antarwali Sarathi on Dhule-Solapur road and action was taken despite the stir being peaceful.
Violence in Jalna
On Friday, police had resorted to baton charge and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse a violent mob that allegedly refused to let authorities shift a man on hunger strike to the hospital.
Around 40 policemen and several protesters were injured and many buses set on fire during the violence that erupted here. More than 350 persons have been booked for alleged involvement in the untoward incidents.
Speaking to the injured persons in a local hospital in the afternoon, the NCP supremo said those seeking reservations in jobs and education for the Maratha community must do so peacefully, should exercise restrain and keep calm.
Pawar assures support for agitators
Pawar, who assured them of his support, also met several agitators who are on hunger strike at the site of Friday's police action.
Talking to reporters after meeting the injured persons, the NCP chief said the issues (of removal of the 50 per cent ceiling and caste census) were discussed (in the INDIA alliance) meet but a final decision was not arrived at.
"We will raise these in Parliament," the former Union minister said.
He blamed the state home department for Friday's incident and termed the police action as "inhuman".
"The protestors told me the agitation was peaceful and discussions were on with the local administration. The protestors were raising slogans against home minister (and deputy chief minister) Devendra Fadnavis. They told me the police got a call from higher-ups and then their attitude changed," Pawar told reporters.
Reservations for the Maratha community was given by the Congress-NCP government but, unfortunately, it did not pass the legal test, he said.
"I appeal to the chief minister (Eknath Shinde) to intervene and find a solution," he said.
"When I was chief minister.. there was a stampede in Nagpur (an apparent reference to Gowari stampede of 1994 in which more than 100 persons were killed) and some tribals had died. (Then) Minister Madhukar Pichad, who belonged to the tribal community, resigned owning responsibility," he said.