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Maratha Kranti Morcha: Why are Marathas demanding Reservation?

Arti Ghargi

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Maratha; Maharashtra

It was in the year 1993 when the demand to include Marathas in reservation categories was first raised.

 

The Maratha Quota stir hit Mumbai on Wednesday. The organizers of the Maratha Kranti Morcha declared a Mumbai Bandh. The streets of Mumbai were flooded with the Maratha Protestors. Though, the Bandh has been called off, the protest by Maratha community has already created ripples. But why the Maratha community-one of the electorally powerful community in Maharashtra is protesting?

The main goal of the Maratha quota stir is to secure a certain percentage of reservation in Education and Government Jobs. Broadly, the Maratha Quota agitation can be identified with Patidar reservation demand. Like Patidar community, Maratha community holds constitutes a significant percentage of Maharashtra’s population and is electorally significant. The dominance of Marathas in Maharashtrian politics can be understood by the sheer number of Chief Ministers from the community. Right from Maharashtra’s first Chief Minister Yashvantrao Chavhan to Prithviraj Chavan, as many as 11 Chief Ministers were from the Maratha community. The powerful community stands 32% of the entire population of Maharashtra and dominates 80% of the total 288 assembly seats in the state.

Maratha

Chief Ministers of Maharashtra from Maratha Community

Maratha Reservation demand:

The demand for reservation to Maratha community is not recently founded. Though it revived again on a massive scale after Kopardi gang-rape case, the demand has been there for over two decades. It was in 1993 when the demand to include Marathas in reservation categories was raised. In the 1990s, the National Front government led by V. P. Singh implemented the Mandal Commission recommendations.

The Mandal Commission, or the Socially Backward Classes Commission set up in the 1980s was tasked with identifying the “socially or educationally backward classes” of India. The commission in its study found out that the Other Backward Castes comprise 52% of India’s population. The commission also recommended that the OBCs be given 27% reservation in government jobs. The report was pushed under the sheets due to the political ramification, however, the V. P. Singh government revived it.

Maratha

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As the implementation of the recommendations came into effect, the then Maharashtra government added Kunbi community in the OBC category but omitted the Maratha. This did not go down well with the Maratha community which contested that Marathas and Kunbis are the same.

In December 2009, 18 Maratha organizations came under umbrella banner of the Maratha Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (MASS). The organization led many protests stoking caste politics in the state. It was in 2014 when Congress-NCP government was battling Anti-incumbency, the Maharashtra government gave in to demands of Maratha community. The then Congress-NCP government created a separate category called Educationally and Socially Backward Category (ESBC) for Marathas and granted 16% reservation. However, Bombay High Court struck the order down.

 

Are Marathas really Backward?

The term “Backward” here stands as a key contention. Backwards can be defined as those set of people or communities that are socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged. Does the Maratha community fit on these parameters? The answer is both yes and no. The Maratha community similar to Patels in Gujrat comes under Kshatriya Varna. Historically, the community is regarded as a warrior community but the later generations settled in agriculture and the community came to be known as the agriculturist. Thus, unlike other communities, Dalits for example, they do not have any social stigma attached to them.

The Marathas has enough representation in lower level government jobs but is still underrepresented in Class-I jobs in engineering, medicine, etc. Thus, the educational status of the overall community should be under scrutiny.

Maratha

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The Marathas in Western Maharashtra is considered politically influential and wealthy community. This is due to the growth of co-operative sectors in the region. Western Maharashtra has a huge share in state’s co-operative banks, co-operative sugar factories, co-operative milk industry, etc. The local Marathas thus emerged as the wealthy and prestigious community. The Marathas from Western Maharashtra also became a dominant force in state’s politics.

However, this does not imply that every Maratha has the economically strong background. There is a vast majority of Marathas that resides in Marathwada, Vidarbha and Khandesh which has seen the worst track record in farmer’s suicide.  The area has been one of the worst drought-hit areas. The increasing debt, lack of agricultural facilities, low yield has made the occupation difficult for the Marathas.

Maratha

Maratha Kranti Morcha (Silent March) in 2017

However, in 2003-04, National Commission for Backward Classes didn’t approve OBC status for Marathas. Even in 2008, the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission had declared Marathas economically and politically a forward caste. However, with OBC already having 27% of reservation, the total amount of reservation has gone up to 49%. Granting reservation to  Marathas will violate Supreme Court ruling putting 50% cap on the reservation. This was also the very reason why the Bombay High Court had struck it down.

However, Tamil Nadu has set an example in this context. The state has 69% reservation. Following Tamil Nadu’s step, Maharashtra first has to prove that more than 50% of the state’s population is backward and then it can pass an act.

Explainers

What is Citizenship Amendment Bill and why is Assam opposing it?

Arti Ghargi

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Simply, the citizenship amendment bill allows illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who are non-muslim to be Indian citizens. 

 

Adding to the list of allies deserting the National Democratic Alliance is the coalition partner of BJP in one of the key north-eastern state: Assam Gana Parishad. On Tuesday, the party announced that it will no longer be a part of BJP-led NDA. Two days later, the ministers from the party also pulled out of the Assam Cabinet led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonwal.  The ministers who reigned are Agriculture Minister Atul Bora who is also the AGP president, Water Resources Minister Keshav Mahanta and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Phanibhushan Choudhury. The three ministers submitted their resignations to the Assam Chief Minister at the state secretariat along with 11 other MLAs.

Assam Gana Parishad breaking ties is expected to be a major setback for the BJP in north-east especially at a time when the party is pushing the North East democratic Alliance for deeper penetration in the region. But why has the Assam Gan Parishad after giving a stable government for three years in Assam decided to sever ties with the BJP? The reason is the Citizenship Amendment Bill. the Bill was introduced by the Modi government in Lok Sabha in 2016. This new bill seeks to amend the original Citizenship Act of 1955. The Citizenship Amendment bill was passed in lok sabha in the recent winter session. Now, before moving on to what is it about the amendment bill that made Assam Gana Parishad leave BJP, let us see what exactly is the Citizenship Act.

Citizenship

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This act describes and defines who are citizens of India and how can it be decided whether a person is a citizen of India or not. It also lays down the criteria one needs to fulfil in order to be an Indian citizen and under which circumstances the citizenship can be revoked.

The ambit of the act is wider, but we are focusing on the part which the government seeks to amend. which is citizenship by naturalisation. This part of the act deals with the citizenship of non-Indian person that comes with the time period he has spent in the country and the kind of service he has offered to the nation. The detailed description of the Citizenship act can be found on the Foreigners Division of Ministry of Home Affairs portal. In the same act, the schedule three provides criteria of eligibility for the citizenship by naturalization. There are total seven criteria for eligibility that one needs to fulfil in this case. For example, a person seeking citizenship in India should not belong to a country where Indians are not allowed to be a citizen by law or by culture. He should have renounced the citizenship of his country and has followed the legal procedure of the same and informed the country’s government about the same. he is of good character etc.

Citizenship

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Further, the act states: That the person seeking citizenship has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India or partly the one and partly the other, throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of the application and That during the fourteen years] immediately preceding the said period of twelve months, he has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India, or partly the one and partly the other, for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than eleven years].

Now the new bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.  Simply, illegal migrants from these three countries who are non-muslim can now be Indian citizens. The Citizenship Amendment Bill also relaxes the 11-year requirement mentioned in the original act to six years for non-muslim illegal migrants from these three countries. As the bill defines eligibility on the grounds of religion,  The experts argue that this is in violation of Article 14 of the Indian constitution that guarantees right to equality.

Citizenship

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The Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.  these two Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.

However, according to the PIB notification of September 7, 2015; the Indian government ordered that the members of the six religions mentioned above be exempted from the provisions of these two acts. The notification further states that the illegal migrants who are minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh be who have entered India before or on December 31, 2014, are exempted from the acts.

Citizenship

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Now, these are the two amendments that upset the Assam Gana Parishad. In Assam, too the bill is facing much resistance and causing a streak of protests as the state’s politics is based on Assamese sub-nationalism that takes pride in the region’s culture and language. The illegal migrants from Bangladesh whether Muslim and Non-muslim are viewed as outsiders to this culture. There is fear among the population that this Bengali-speaking illegal migrant if rises, can hurt the demographics of the state and can take over the linguistic and cultural identity. In terms of percentage, Assam has the country’s second highest  Muslim population after Jammu & Kashmir. Muslims, mostly ..  Bengali-speaking, comprise 34% of Assam’s little over 3 crore people. Assamese-speaking Muslims, who are minuscule in number support campaigns against migrants from all religious denominations.

Citizenship

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Thus, there had also been the demand for an updated NRC in the state. The Assam Accord which was signed in 1985, had marked mid-night of 24th March 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to people who have come illegally to India from Bangladesh. It was decided that people who are originally Bangladeshi and have been staying in India illegally should be detected and deported to Bangladesh.  Nearly 30 years later, a lot of key clauses are yet to be implemented by the government. This has been a major political issue in Assam. With the new Citizenship amendment bill amending the two key aspects of the Assam accord, there has been a state of discontent in Assam. Not only AGP that is opting out of the NDA, but more allied parties in the northeast may walk out of NDA over the same issue.

At a time when BJP’s longstanding alliance partners are deserting it, losing alliances in the northeast is definitely not a good sign for the party ahead of 2019.

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Bhima Koregaon: How the case developed in last one year

Arti Ghargi

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bhima-koregaon

In the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence, the political narrative shifted around the Dalit-Marathas equation in the state.

The 1st day of January marks the beginning of a new year and celebrations for everyone around the world, but for the Dalit community, the day also commemorates the battle of Bhima Koregaon, a significant event in the Dalit history that was unknown to the masses at large until last year. But before moving on to what happened last year, first, let us know why the battle of Bhima-Koregaon is so significant for the Dalit community.

About two hundred years ago, on January 1, 1818, around 500 Mahar soldiers of the East India Company, led by the British, defeated the massive army led by Peshwa Bajirao II, in Koregaon. Since then the battle of Bhima-Koregaon has become a significant turn in a Dalit history. The defeat brought an end to the Peshwa rule.  The East India Company, which led the Mahar soldiers erected a pillar in memory of those who fought the battle. The names of the Mahar soldiers are inscribed on the pillar.
Bhima-Koregaon

East India Company Army
(Image Source: Web)

Years later, it was Dalit revolutionary Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar who visited the pillar and paid tribute to the soldiers. In his view, this battle was a victory of Mahars over the Peshwas and their brahminical rule in which Dalits were tortured and discriminated. Since then the Bhima-Koregaon village sees Dalit communities gathering at the Vijay Stambh every year on January 1st.

It was last year, the 200th anniversary of the battle,  that a major clash broke out between the Dalit community and Marathas at the Bhima-Koregaon Which brought this tiny village in the national spotlight. The clashes were violent which resulted in the death of one person and injured several years. The next day on January 2, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar called for a Maharashtra Bandh to protest the attack on Dalit congregation which resulted in a streak of violence across the state.
Bhima-Koregaon

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The clashes had political implications too, even beyond the state of Maharashtra. In the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence, we saw narratives being shifted around the Dalit-Marathas equation in the state. Whereas the trail of investigation in the clashes led to Elgar Parishad, an event that brought prominent Dalit faces on one stage. The Dalit leaders, on the other hand, said that Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote were the real conspirators behind the attack on Dalits at Bhima-Koregaon. On January 3, Dalit social activist Anita Savale filed a complaint alleging that she saw the followers of Bhide and Ekbote go on a rampage in Bhima Koregaon, throwing stones and assaulting people.  The police investigation, however, couldn’t find any link between the violence. Milind Ekbote who was arrested was later granted bail by the court.
Bhima-Koregaon

Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote (Image Source: Web)

In the months that followed, It was a complaint made by a Pune Businessman Tushar Damgude that the police investigation shifted in the direction of Elgar Parishad which brought the focus on Dalit leaders that attended the event. Damgude complained that the provocative speeches were made at Elgar Parishad which led to the Bhima-Koregaon violence the following day. Since then ten of the activists have been named and many of them have been arrested by the police. The trail of investigation also gave us the most discussed terminology of the year i.e. Urban Naxals or Urban Maoists.
The police claimed the Elgar Parishad was funded by banned CPI(Maoists). The arrests, in this case, were made under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. On June 6, the police arrested five activists – Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen and Rona Wilson –Labelling them “urban Maoist operatives”, the police claimed to have found incriminating evidence that they were plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On August 28, the police raided 10 more activists and arrested five of them – Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj. The critics of the government say that it is a plot of the central and state government to suppress any voice of criticism. Whereas the government stands by the police and justifies the arrest of the alleged Urban Naxals.
Bhima Koregaon

Image Source: Web

One year on, the pillar at Bhima-Koregaon still stands to attract thousands. Reportedly this year more than five lakh people are expected to gather at the spot. Considering the clashes that broke out last year, the security has been beefed up and around 7000 police personnel have been deployed. Prominent leaders are expected to attend the gathering including Bhim Army’s Chandrasekhar Azad who claimed he was put under house arrest a few days ago in Maharashtra. While the police have denied any permission to the rally, the stage for the Azad’s address has been set up.
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Why the SC appointed AK Patnaik to head the investigation in Alok Verma case?

Arti Ghargi

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patnaik

Justice Patnaik was a part of a two-judge bench formed in March 2016 for the 2G spectrum case.

 

The high voltage drama in India’s premier investigating agency Central Bureau of Agency got a sane turn with Supreme Court ordering a probe into the matter. The CBI bloodbath that happened post-midnight on Tuesday saw the two topmost officials being removed from their posts. The warring officers i.e. CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on “forced leave” while the entire team of officials probing corruption case against Asthana was transferred overnight. The breakneck reaction by the government thus raised questions whether there was any cover-up.

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However, CBI Director Alok Verma moved to the Supreme Court challenging his removal and demanded an urgent hearing in the matter. The Supreme Court today took up the matter for hearing and ordered a probe into the matter under the supervision of retired Supreme Court Judge AK Patnaik. It has also ordered that the probe must be completed within 10 days and the report to be submitted to the apex court during the next hearing on November 12. The court has also prevented the interim director of the CBI Nageshwar Rao from taking important decisions in policy matters.

CBI

CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana

While there has been no immediate relief for Alok Verma, the silver lining is a probe has been initiated in the matter. What is more interesting is the retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik will be monitoring the probe.

Who is AK Patnaik?

AK Patnaik will be heading the committee investigating allegations of corruption against CBI chief Alok Verma. The former Supreme Court judge was born on June 3, 1949. He graduated in Political Science from Delhi University and studied Law from Cuttack. Patnaik became a member of the Odisha Bar Association in 1974. About 20 years after stepping in the law profession, he became an additional judge in Odisha High Court in 1994. However, he was soon sent to the Guwahati High Court where he became a permanent judge the very next year. He worked there for seven years before being sent to his home state in 2002.

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Subsequently, in March 2005, Justice Patnaik was made the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court. In October the same year, he was appointed Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court. The then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti had praised his work as the Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court. In November 2009, he was made the judge of the Supreme Court. Five years later Justice Patnaik retired in June 2014. The most discussed case in Justice Patnaik is Justice Soumitra Sen’s case.

 

What is Soumitra Sen case?

Justice Soumitra Sen was charged with misappropriation of money and misrepresenting facts. Justice Patnaik was a part of the three-member committee of judges set up to investigate the allegations. In its report, this committee accused Justice Sen of “wrongful behaviour”. There were allegations on Sen of misusing nearly Rs 33 lakhs and being the court receiver when a legal case in dispute between the Steel Authority of India and the Shipping Authority of India was ongoing.

patnaik

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The Chief Justice of India and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha had created committees to investigate the allegations. The committee reports said that Soumitra Sen was the first receiver when he was a lawyer and later as a judge. During his tenure as a judge, he continued withdrawing cash and issuing a check from the same bank account in which he had received money as a lawyer. After the report came out CPM leader Sitaram Yechury presented a proposal in the Rajya Sabha to remove Soumitra Sen. The proposal was passed by the Upper House with a majority.

It was for the first time in India’s history that such a resolution was passed against a High Court judge. This proposal was to be taken up by Lok Sabha, but before that, Soumitra Sen resigned.

 

2G, Spot Fixing case:

Though Soumitra Sen case was the highlight of the career of AK Patnaik, he has also handled other high stake cases including the 2G scam case which led the undoing of UPA government and Spot Fixing case. Justice Patnaik was a part of a two-judge bench formed in March 2016 for the 2G spectrum case. Apart from this, Justice Patnaik was also included in the Supreme Court bench that heard the plea demanding an alternate provision to NOTA and spot-fixing in the IPL.

patnaik

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After retirement, Justice Patnaik was proposed to be made the President of the Odisha State Human Rights Commission, but he refused. Justice Patnaik was also involved in a bench, which gave the verdict that if a legislator or MP is convicted in a criminal case, he/she will not be able to contest elections for six years.

Among the law fraternity, he is regarded as a judge with high integrity and stickler of discipline. This probably explains why CJI Ranjan Gogoi appointed him to head the investigation which will have a significant impact on the prestige of India’s premier investigative agency.

 

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