Ahead of the government’s meeting with OBC leaders on September 29, BabanTaywade, president of Rashtriya OBC Mahasangh says if Marathas are included within OBC it will deprive the existing OBCs of their rights.
As the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are fast approaching, the cry for reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and education in Maharashtra is getting louder. The Maharashtra government’s assurance to Marathas that it would look into the demands raised by the community may have helped to diffuse the ongoing protests. The government’s move has not gone down well with the representatives from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who want the Eknath Shinde-led government to give them in writing that Marathas will not be included in the OBC category for reservation. This clearly indicates that it is going to be a tight ropewalk for the government at the meeting with OBC leaders on September 29.
In an interview, BabanTaywade, president of Rashtriya OBC Mahasangh, talks to Shubhangi Khapre about the OBC agenda at the meeting.
Why is the OBC protest continuing when the government has agreed for a dialogue?
Baban Taywade: The state government has convened a meeting with OBC leaders in Mumbai on September 29. It was conveyed to us through government emissaries. We are told CM Eknath Shinde, Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar along with state officials would hold discussions with OBC leaders. After getting the concrete assurance we called off the indefinite hunger strike. Yet, our protest will continue till we get assurance in writing from the government. We had started our protest at Samvidhan Chowk in Nagpur. Similarly, OBC activists and leaders are holding protests in their own districts across Maharashtra.
What will be your demand at the meeting with the government?
Taywade: Our central demand is Marathas should not get reservation under the OBC category. Any attempt to grant reservation would be detrimental to the rights of OBCs. It will be injustice to OBCs whose population is more than 52 per cent. And the reservation they get in the state is 19 per cent. Apart from this, there is reservation given to various communities under Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribe (VJNT) namely Special Backward Class 2 %; VJNT (Backward Class) 2.5 %; Nomadic Tribe (C) Dhangar 3.5%; NT ( D) Vanjari 2 %. If we add all these under VJNT it comes to 13. So OBC and VJNT make up 32 per cent. But what should be understood is within OBCs there are 400 subcategories.
If Marathas are included within OBC it will deprive the existing OBCs of their rights.
But Kunbhis in Vidarbha are already availing OBC quota?
Taywade: It is a fact. The Kunbhis, Kunbhi-Marathas or Maratha-Kunbhis in Vidarbha and Konkan are covered under the OBC category. We are not against Kunbhis’ inclusion in OBC. We have no issue if there are credible documents to establish an individual or family as Kunbhi. The condition is that the individual or the family should furnish the record (either revenue or educational) of their father, grandfather or great-grandfather showing the mention of Kunbhi. If the hereditary records are proven they should be entitled to Kunbhi caste certificates which would automatically make them eligible for OBC quota.
However, giving the entire Maratha community Kunbhi caste certificate without documentary evidence, as demanded by the Maratha community, is not acceptable to us. We will fight tooth and nail if this happens.
But getting old records is a daunting task? So, why are OBCs worried?
Taywade: Maratha activist Manoj Jarasange Patil who was on an indefinite fast at Antarwali Sarati village in Jalna first demanded Kunbhi certificates for individuals/ families in the Marathwada region whose records can be ascertained. Later, he expanded the scope. He then demanded to grant Kunbhi certificates to the Maratha community across Maharashtra and include them under the OBC category. CM Eknath Shinde who visited Patil and asked him to end fast promised to look into all his demands. Now, Marathas have given a 40-day deadline to resolve the vexed reservation issue.
What is your demand to the government against the Maratha quota?
Taywade: We want the CM or the government to make it clear that the entire Maratha community will not get Kunbhi caste certificates. We want the government to give this to us in writing. There will be no compromise on the OBC quota. It will remain intact.
Apart from reservation what are OBCs concerns?
Taywade: The much-promised student hostels in every district remain on paper. We want one hostel for boys and another for girls in all 36 districts of Maharashtra. Unlike Marathas who are getting sops in tuition fees for a wide range of professional courses the incentives for OBCs are much less. So, all these are issues we will be raising at the meeting.
How is Maratha versus OBC polarisation being played politically?
Taywade: Well, let me clarify that OBCs are not against Maratha reservation. If they get separate reservations under SEBC or any other category we have no problem. We will support them. We don’t want their inclusion within OBC. So, we are fighting for our rights. Politically, the OBC population is much larger at 52 per cent compared to Marathas who claim 33 per cent. But that is inclusive of Kunbhis and Leva Patils already covered under OBC. So, Maratha population is much lower than what is being projected by the community. Therefore, we want the government to undertake a caste census to ascertain the reality and accordingly bring amendments to raise the reservation ceiling of 50 per cent which has been imposed by the Supreme Court. But then extending reservation limits comes under the Central Government. So, we cannot hold the state responsible.
In terms of electoral politics how will OBC reservation have a bearing on the 2024 polls?
Taywade: The OBC protests have elicited support from leaders across party lines. Leaders from Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and BJP personally visited us and expressed solidarity with us. So, I would not comment on politics as we are fighting for the OBC community and not for or against any party.
In Vidarbha are Kunbhis a major force to reckon with?
Taywade: The Kunbhi community in Vidarbha which is covered under the OBC category is the largest sect in terms of population (up to 60 per cent). It is then followed by the Teli community, Powar, Kalar etc. Electoral politics depends entirely on multiple factors such as candidates, issues, and party inclination. Our fight is not against the ruling or Opposition parties. We are fighting for our own rights at this moment.