Maratha groups seek inclusion in OBC category | Bombay News

Mumbai: After the Supreme Court (SC) overturned reservations in education and Maratha community jobs last year, some groups approached the Maharashtra State Commission for the Backward Classes (MSCBC) to request that they be included in the Other Backward Class (OBC) Category.

“We have received applications from Maratha groups like Shivasangram, Maratha Kranti Morcha and others seeking to have Marathas classified as OBC. Applications were received last month and are being processed. The Commission held a meeting in Aurangabad on Tuesday and it was decided that it will meet in June in Pune to decide which sub-committee will look into this issue,” said MSCBC member BL Sagar Killarikar.

Shivasangram is led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally and Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Vinayak Mete. Mete confirmed that he had filed the application with the Commission. “At present we have no quota benefit and fall into the open category, with eligible persons being covered by the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category…therefore I have asked the MSCBC to initiate an investigation (to assess the backlog of the community) and make a recommendation to the government,” he said.

Mete added that however, the issue of accommodating Marathas in the OBC or Socially and Educationally Backward (SEBC) categories could be decided after the investigation is completed.

In May 2021, a five-judge bench of the SC Constitution had struck down 12% of reservations in education and 13% in jobs for Marathas. Notably, three commissions chaired by judges (retired) SN Khatri (1995), RM Bapat (2008) and BP Saraf and had rejected requests to include Marathas in the OBC category.

The BP Mandal Commission (1980), the National Commission for the Backward Classes (NCBC) (2000) had also invalidated this assertion. However, the MSCBC headed by Justice MG Gaikwad (Retired) recommended quotas for Marathas in November 2018.

Communities in the OBC category transcend castes and religions and represent approximately 53% of the population. Many OBC leaders believe that including the numerically strong Marathas in the OBC category would deprive them of the benefits of quotas.

Along with the Kunbis (peasants or ploughmen) – who are recognized as OBCs – the Marathas (warriors) are estimated to form over 30% of Maharashtra’s population. Marathas and Kunbis may not be endogamous. The Kunbis (heels) form a significant number in Konkan and Vidarbha.

Rajendra Kondhare of the Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Mahasangh (ABMM) said classification of Marathas as OBC is a long-standing request. He added that the Maharashtra government has filed a petition for review with the SC and a petition to the Commission may indicate that it was on weak ground.

OBC activist Shravan Deore called the petition a futile exercise and noted that community groups persisted despite various commissions canceling Maratha’s booking request. “The BJP government wrongly granted quota benefits to the Marathas, which were canceled by the SC…even if they manage to get reservations a certain number of times, they will still be canceled by the courts. Nowhere in India are there quotas for Kshatriyas, landowners and ruling castes have stood the test of judicial review,” he noted.

Deore said reservations are not the only panacea for social backwardness and added that community leaders must explore other avenues for their advancement.

Maratha rulers had originally demanded quotas based on economic status rather than caste. On March 22, 1982, Annasaheb Patil, legislator and emblematic leader of the mathadi workers (charge on the head), organized a massive Maratha morcha in Mumbai under the aegis of the ABMM, to underline the demand. Patil had threatened that if these demands were not conceded, he would die by suicide. When none of these demands were accepted by the government, Patil carried out his threat that same night.

After the Mandal Commission report that recommended quotas for the backward classes were implemented by the central government led by Vice President Singh in 1990, the Maratha community started seeking caste-based quotas. However, some leaders like former minister Shalinitai Patil and Annasaheb Jawale of the Maratha Chhava youth organization, stuck to the demand for quotas for economic reasons.

A series of silent and peaceful “Maratha Kranti Morchas” organized since 2016 have been demanding the quotas, but these protests turned violent in 2018. Maratha mobilization has been met with similar counter-mobilization by OBCs and others social groups.

The former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Devendra Fadnavis approved a law granting a 16% quota for Marathas in a newly created SEBC category. Although the Bombay High Court in June 2019 upheld the constitutional validity of this law, it reduced the quotas to 12% (education) and 13% (government jobs). This was eventually invalidated by the SC.