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Maratha Kranti Morcha: Why are Marathas demanding Reservation?

Arti Ghargi

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Maratha

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

Who are the five people arrested in Bhima Koregaon violence case?

Arti Ghargi

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activists

The trail leading to Bhima-Koregaon violence probe also revealed an alleged Maoist plot of Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination of PM Modi.

In a continuation of a crackdown on Elgar Parishad, a public meeting held at Pune a day prior to the Bhima-Koregaon violence that prompted the violent Maharashtra Bandh, the Pune police have arrested five activists on Tuesday. The police claimed that the five activists have a connection with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The five lawyers/activists namely, Sudha BharadwajArun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha and revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao were arrested in a trail of multi-city raids that began on Tuesday morning.  These activists were taken into custody from Faridabad, Thane, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad, respectively. The Joint CP of Pune Shivaji Bodhke said that the police have made the arrests on the basis of “incriminating evidence collected during the investigation and documents recovered from the five activists arrested on June 6.”

Post Bhima-Koregaon violence, the police action were prompted by two FIRs filed in January this year against Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani and Student Leader Umar Khalid and some other members for provocative statements at Elgar Parishad. According to the police, the statement made led to the incitement of violence. When the probe progressed, the police found that some of the members were in touch with the banned CPI(Maoist).  This trail led to the June 6 raids and arrests of Sudhir Dhawale- editor of Marathi magazine ‘Vidrohi’ (rebel), Lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University Professor Shoma Sena, former PMRD fellow Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson- allegedly a close aide of arrested JNU professor GN Saibaba. Currently, all the arrested are in Yerwada jail. The trail also revealed an alleged Maoist plot of Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination of PM Modi.

According to the police, the names of all the five arrested early Tuesday morning figured during the investigation of the above-arrested people. Here is the background of the arrested people.

Sudha Bharadwaj:

A familiar face for the journalists, lawyers and activists who have worked in Chhattisgarh, Sudha Bharadwaj is a human rights lawyer. She has spent nearly 30 years in Chhattisgarh fighting the cases of Dalits, farmers, labourers and tribals against the land acquisition. Bharadwaj is also associated with the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) as a national secretary. Apart from PUCL, she has been associated with Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, which advocated the protection of the cultural identity of the state and rights of workers and peasants.

However, recently she came under the fire allegedly for sympathizing with Maoists and their methods of violent insurgencies. There were claims that she allegedly received money from them. However, Bharadwaj has denied these allegations. Though, she has time and again said that she had appeared for Adivasis in fake encounter cases and cases against Human Rights activists, she has acted with professional integrity and courage.

Arun Ferreira:

Arun Ferreira was arrested from his Thane residence on Tuesday. A Mumbai based human rights activist-lawyer, Ferreira has been arrested before as well in connection with the Naxalites. In 2007, he was taken into custody on the charges of being a Naxal operative; which were dropped later and he was acquitted. As many as 11 cases were registered against him in the subsequent four years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Arms Act and even sedition. After the acquittal in 2011, he was arrested again. However, he was granted bail soon.

After getting out of jail, Ferreira received his degree from Siddharth Law college and became a practising lawyer since December 2016. He also became a part of the ‘Indian Association of People’s Lawyer and the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Vernon Gonsalves:

Vernon Gonsalves was arrested from Mumbai. Before the arrest, he used to work as a professor of Business Organization at a prominent Mumbai College. The security agencies labelled him as an ex-central committee member and former secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of Naxalites outfits. He was arrested in 2007 but was convicted in June 2013 under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act and Arms Act. Though he was charged in 20 cases, he was declared not guilty in 17 cases as the prosecution couldn’t furnish any evidence against him.

However, as he had already served the prison period sentenced to him, he was released immediately.

Gautam Navlakha:

Gautam Navlakha was arrested from Delhi. A very well-known journalist, Navlakha has also served as consultant editor at Economic and Political Weekly. Apart from journalism, he was involved in activism for the civil and human right. He was also actively involved with People’s Union for Democratic Right.

As a journalist and writer, he has visited the troubled state of Kashmir many times and written about the human right violation incidents. He was a convenor of International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir. He was charged with Section 144 for unlawful assembly with an intent to disrupt the peace.

P Varavara Rao:

P Varavara Rao was arrested from his Hyderabad Residence. The renowned poet, journalist, literary critic, and public speaker from Telangana is considered one of the best Marxist critics in Telugu literature. He founded Srujana (creation), a forum for modern literature in Telugu in 1966. He was one of the founders of Viplava Rachayitala Sangam (Revolutionary Writers’ Association), popularly known by its acronym Virasam.  The Virasam allegedly supports and propagates Naxalite ideology and practice.

In 1973, he was arrested by the Andhra Pradesh police under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). However, he was released after a month and a half. In 1974, he along with 41 others were arrested in a conspiracy case, known as Secunderabad Conspiracy Case. He was acquitted in February 1989, after 15 years of prolonged and tiresome trial.  He was also arrested during the emergency.

In 2001, the then Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Peoples War announced the names of Varavara Rao and Gaddar as its emissaries to work out modalities for the proposed peace talks with Telugu Desam Party govt. in Andhra Pradesh.

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This powerful speech by Lokmanya Tilak reminds us why “Self-Rule” important

Arti Ghargi

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Tilak

“Freedom is my birthright. So long as it is awake within me, I am not old,” said Lokmanya Tilak.

 

“Swarajya is my birth-right and I shall have it!” roared Bal Gangadhar Tilak as he emerged from the prison in present-day Mumbai. India found a new slogan which paved the way for India’s Independence struggle and Tilak became the first Lokmanya leader of it. While for the most part of his contribution to Indian Freedom Struggle, he advocated radical approach, however, later in his last years he took up the task of taking the message of Swarajya to rural India. On the lines of Swarajya (Self-Rule) Tilak advocated a Home Rule (Self-governance) for India. He launched Home Rule League in April 1916 to work in Maharashtra (primarily in Bombay Presidency), Karnataka, the Central Provinces and Berar. The objectives of Tilak’s League were: 1) Establishment of self-government for India in British Empire and 2) Working for national education and social and political reforms.

The Membership for the Home Rule League skyrocketed from 1000 in November 1916 to 14,000 in April 1917 and to 32,000 in 1918. This was primarily due to the fiery speeches delivered by Tilak. The Home Rule League organized discussions and lectures and set up reading rooms. It distributed newspapers and pamphlets in English and vernacular languages, educating people about objectives of the movement. Members of the league were powerful orators and petitions of thousands of Indians were submitted to the British authorities.

Tilak

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The Home Rule League was inspired by Irish Home Rule movements. While Tilak focused on Western Parts of India, Irish Theosophical leader Annie Besant helped set up Home Rule League in the different parts of the country. She herself was very active in Madras Presidency. Though the Home Rule Movements of Tilak and Besant functioned separately, they worked in close cooperation with each other. The fiery speech by Bal Gangadhar Tilak soon gave massive popularity to the league.

Here’s one of the most popular speech by Bal Gangadhar Tilak on the first anniversary of the formation of the Home Rule League, in 1917, at Nasik.

“I am young in spirit. Even if my body has grown old, the young spirit inside me is still alive. Whatever I am saying today is deeply felt by this young spirit inside me. The body can wilt, it can decrepit or even perish but the soul residing in the body is forever young. Similarly, if our Home Rule activities slow down, the freedom of our inner spirit cannot sustain and no longer will it be indestructible. Then, we ourselves will start believing that we are slaves.

“Freedom is my birthright. I will not be old as long as it is alive within me. This feeling of freedom, no weapon can cut this, no fire can burn it, no water can drown it and no wind can blow it. We are asking for home rule and we will get it. The science of politics teaches us that we cannot achieve through Slavery what we can through Home Rule. The political progress is the pillar of a nation. I want to invoke your soul that yearns for freedom which will only happen through the political progress.”

“I want to destroy this superstition of slavery that has blinded your spirit. This superstition is the reason why you are being let down by ignorant, conniving and selfish people. There are two sides to the science of politics. While one is celestial, another is demonic. The slavery of any nation is the demonic side. There cannot be a moral justification for this. A nation which might justify this is sinful in the sight of God. Some bravely oppose this demonic side of oppression while some who cannot never be able to declare what is harmful to them.

Tilak

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“These people are capable of giving political and religious teaching, but they do not educate the common people about it.  Religious and political teachings are not separate, though they appear to be so on account of foreign rule. All philosophies are included in the science of politics.”

“Who doesn’t understand the meaning of home rule? Who doesn’t desire it? If I enter your house as a guest, reside there forever and if I don’t pay heed when you oppose; would you like it? According to some people we don’t have the right to home rule. The British are ruling over us for the past century and they say we are not fit for home rule.”

Tilak

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“If the century of British Rule hasn’t been able to make us competent enough for Home Rule, then we will make ourselves fit for it. They find it shameful that we are making efforts to save our country. On the other hand, England itself is trying to protect the small state of Belgium with India’s help; isn’t that shameful for them? Those who find a selfish motive behind our demands or Home Rule can even find fault in the all-merciful God.”

“We all must save the soul of our nation from this custody of foreign rule. We have to toil for it but it is our birthright to protect our nation. The Congress has passed this home rule resolution.”

“Some selfish interests oppose India’s demand for Home Rule in practical politics on the pretext of several issues ridding our country. One such issue is illiteracy. But together we all can eradicate it. Remember, such issues can only be solved with co-operation. It would be sufficient for us that even the illiterate in our country have a dire desire for Swaraj, let it be the strength of all. Those who can easily complete their work can be illiterate but are not foolish. They can be as intelligent as any literate person. Literacy cannot be the parameter for intelligence.”

Tilak

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“It is not that difficult to attain Swaraj. Thus, illiteracy can never be the obstacle in the way. Our uneducated brethren are equally important for this country’s Home Rule. They have equal rights.”

“The circumstances change in no time. Today, only once voice echoes, ‘Now or Never’. Therefore, we must take advantage of this opportunity given to us by God and should put our maximum efforts in the struggle for Home Rule. Turn not back, and confidently leave the ultimate issue to the benevolence of the Almighty.”

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Explainers

Why demand for separate North Karnataka state?

Arti Ghargi

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North Karnataka

North Karnataka is a dry region with scorching heat and lack of water resources, which is why Mysore state had apprehensions about unification.

 

The demand for separate North Karnataka state has raked up once again. The Uttara Karnataka Korata Samithi, an organization spearheading the demand for separate North Karnataka has called for a bandh in the 13 north Karnataka districts on August 2. But why has the demand for separate North Karnataka State emerged in the first place?

Karnataka Pre-independence:

Before independence, today’s Karnataka state didn’t even exist. The Kannada speaking population was dispersed in several areas that fell under the princely states including the princely state of MysoreNizam’s Hyderabad, the Bombay Presidency and the Madras Presidency. While Almost the entire southern half of Karnataka was then under the princely state of Mysore ruled by Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the northern half was under Nizam (Hyderabad-Karnataka) and Bombay presidency(Bombay-Karnataka).

However, the language divides soon became the issue. Kannadigas in the Hubli-Karnataka region that fell under the Bombay Presidency felt that Marathis was being imposed on them at the expense of Kannada, while those in the Hyderabad-Karnataka felt that Urdu is being imposed on them under Nizam rule.

Same was the case with Kannadigas in Madras Presidency who felt the Tamil usage will leave Kannada-speaking people as a minority.

North Karnataka

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Karnataka Unification:

To save the Kannada language from extinction scholars and activists launched a movement to protest this linguistic oppression. However, the movement later developed into a demand for separate state coalescing all the territories from the presidencies that were majority Kannada-speaking. This was called the Ekikarana or ‘Unification’ movement. The resentment and protest had started as early as 1856.

However, later the movement gained momentum and led to decades of struggle by different organizations like Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha,  Kannada Sahitya Parishat and the Karnataka Samithi for the creation of Karnataka state. The struggle continued for years. However, it was in 1890 that the protest intensified with the arrival of Aluru Venkata Rao. He was inspired by the protests that followed after British partitioning of Bengal. In 1903, speaking at a meeting of the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, he made a case for integrating all Kannada regions of Madras Province and north Karnataka with Mysore kingdom.

The idea of Separate Karnataka state was also ratified by the Nehru Committee in 1928. The Committee recommended the formation of a single province by uniting all Kannada speaking areas. The Nehru committee stated in its report that there was a “strong prima facie case for unification” and it believed Karnataka could also be a financially strong province. This recommendation aided the movement.

North Karnataka

Aluru Venkat Rao

Karnataka post-independence:

Post-independence, the creation of Karnataka state saw many obstacles, it was even opposed by the States Reorganization Committee. However, the unified Karnataka had huge support from the Kannadigas. The SRC eventually recommended the reorganisation of the states based on linguistic demographics and this was soon ratified in parliament. On 1 November 1973, under Devaraj Urs as Chief Minister, Mysore state was renamed as Karnataka.

 

North Karnataka

Participants of the first Kannada Sahitya Parishat (Bangalore, 1915)

 

The woes of North Karnataka:

Historically, the Southern Karnataka, under Mysore Princely state was always a prosperous region. The region has an abundance of natural resources and is economically well-off. On the other hand, North Karnataka is a dry region with scorching heat and lack of water resources. This is also one of the reasons why Mysore state had initially shown opposition to the idea of unification with North Karnataka.

The lack of favourable conditions in North Karnataka has also lead to lack of investment and thus, employment in this region. The agriculture has also suffered greatly because of lack of availability of water. While South Karnataka thrives on Cauvery water, North Karnataka is dependent on Mahadayi. However, the ongoing tussle between Goa and Karnataka over the water has left many farmers in a lurch. There is a high economic disparity between the people of North Karnataka and South Karnataka.

North Karnataka

Hubli: Women display empty pots as part of protests against Mahadayi river tribunal verdict in Hubli on Thursday.

The demand for Separate North Karnataka:

The economic disparity between the two regions was even deepened by the political discourse that mainly focused around South Karnataka. The state capital was shifted from Mysore to Bengaluru but it still remained in South Karnataka. The North Karnataka was often ignored or was not considered significant.

There have been several protests against this discrimination as well. However, it was in 2000, when Vaijnath Patil a social worker demanded a separate Hyderabad-Karnataka state. He and his supporters even boycotted the Kannada Rajyotsava, but the movement did not get much traction.

In the wake of Karnataka Assembly elections of 2013, the then UPA govt. at the centre gave a special status to the Hyderabad-Karnataka region under section 371(J). A provision was created reserving 70% seats in colleges for local students while 75-85% jobs reserved for the local candidates. This move effectively tackled the separate state demand.

North Karnataka

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Why has the demand resurfaced?

The JD(S)-Congress formed the post-poll alliance that is ruling Karnataka now. However, the budget, presented by Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy has now become the centre of separate north Karnataka demand being surfaced again. The pro-separate state activist alleged that there are very few schemes and policies for the region.

The lack of representation in state cabinet from North Karnataka is also one of the reason. The state cabinet is dominated by Vokkaliga community which the CM belongs to and has a strong presence in South Karnataka. This has led to the separate North Karnataka state demand.

The Uttara Karnataka Horata Samithi has been at the forefront of the demand and the issue is less likely to die down in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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