Maratha Kranti Morcha, a protest demanding reservation in jobs and education institution in Maharashtra, created unrest on July 23, when 28-year-old Kakasaheb Dattatraya Shinde, member of the ‘Sakal Maratha Kranti Thok Morcha’, died after jumping into the Godavari River in Aurangabad’s Gangapur taluka. Shinde was employed as the driver of a local Shiv Sena leader. The incident came a day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ remark claiming protests would erupt if he visits Pandharpur temple on the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi. Following the incident, the protesters have called for a nationwide protest and have also blocked roads and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Convenors of the Maratha Kranti Morcha have blamed the death of Shinde on the CM’s remarks.
On Monday evening, Shinde’s family refused to take his body and various groups across the state demanded CM’s resignation. The state government has announced Rs 10 lakh ex gratia for the Shinde’s family.
At the funeral
On Tuesday, July 24, at the funeral of Kakasaheb Shinde, crowds raised slogan against the Fadnavis and BJP led government. Shiv Sena MP from Aurangabad, Chandrakant Khaire, and Congress MLC Subhash Zambad were manhandled by the crowd when the duo visited Kaigaon Toka to attend Shinde’s funeral.
Kopardi rape and murder case – Triggered the morcha
On July 13, 2016, a 15-year-old was returning home after meeting her grandfather when she was allegedly dragged to an isolated place, raped and murdered by three men. The accused have been identified as Jitendra Shinde, Nitin Bhailume, and Santosh Bhaval. Shinde was arrested the next day while the two others were arrested two days later. Days after the horrific crime, Maharashtra witnessed its first Maratha Kranti March that saw lakhs of people taking to the streets for the justice. The demands were extended to quotas for Marathas in educational institutions and government jobs and amendment in the SC and ST act.
The 11-month trial witnessed 31 witnesses and concluded that the accused raped and murdered the minor. On November 29, 2017, a fast track court in Ahmednagar held all the three accused guilty of conspiracy, sexual assault, and murder and sentenced them to death.
4 demands of the protesters
The Maratha community constitutes around 30 percent of the state’s population. The community has been holding marches in different districts to press for their demands, including:
- Punishment to culprits in Kopardi rape and murder case.
- Reservation in education and government jobs.
- Amendment in Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to stop its misuse.
- Loan waiver for farmers to curb suicide.
The issue of Maratha reservations also figured prominently during the Monsoon Session of Maharashtra Legislature in Nagpur held in June 2018.
CM skips annual puja
On July 23, in view of the protest, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis skipped the annual puja at the Lord Vitthal and Rukmini temple in Pandharpur town. The annual puja is performed by the acting CM, following which the public are allowed to offer prayers. According to PTI, a pro-quota leader was quoted saying, “If Fadnavis visits Pandharpur on July 23, and we will hold a massive protest there and disrupt the puja.”
CM loses power if skips puja?
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis performed the puja at his official residence ‘Varsha’ in Mumbai. In a tweet, senior journalist Nikhil Wagle noted that in 1997 the then Maharashtra CM Manohar Joshi was prevented from performing puja at Pandharpur after Ramabai Nagar firing. Joshi subsequently lost power in 1999. He writes, “Puja at Pandharpur is considered important for Maharashtra CM. Devendra Fadnavis will not perform it tomorrow as Maratha organisations decided to oppose. In 1997 CM Manohar Joshi faced the same situation after Ramabai Nagar firing. He lost power in 1999.”
Puja at Pandharpur is considered important for Maharashtra CM. Devendra Fadnavis will not perform it tomorrow as Maratha organisations decided to oppose. In 1997 CM Manohar Joshi faced same situation after Ramabai Nagar firing. He lost power in 1999.
— nikhil wagle (@waglenikhil) July 22, 2018
Violent protest on July 24
Following the death of the protester Kakasaheb Shinde, the protest has turned violent. On July 24, in Aurangabad’s Gangapur, the protesters set a truck ablaze. Tyres were burnt in front of Osmanabad collector’s office. While trains were blocked in Parbhani district. Some groups have also planned to protest in Mumbai in the near future. In 2017, huge silent rallies were organised in Mumbai and several towns in Maharashtra.
Another suicide attempts
On July 24, a youth identified as Jayant Sonawane tried to commit suicide by jumping into a stream in Maharashtra’s Kannad tehsil on July 24. He was rescued and is undergoing treatment at a local hospital. While another youth Jagannath Sonavne tried to commit suicide by consuming poison.
August Kranti Day 2018
August Kranti Day is celebrated annually on August 9. Various Maratha groups have announced Maharashtra shutdown on August Kranti Day 2018 to intensify the agitation for reservations.