Jarange breaks fast after 17 days in CM’s presence

  • | Saturday | 16th September, 2023

Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar: Reservation activist Manoj Jarange ended his indefinite hunger strike at Jalnas Antarwali Sarati village on Thursday. Jarange broke his 17-day fast — launched in demand of quota for the Marathas in jobs and education — in the presence of chief minister Eknath Shinde and other state ministers.The CMs presence at Antarwali Sarati was one of Jaranges five key conditions to call off the strike. Other conditions included the suspension of the police officers who ordered the lathicharge on the peaceful protesters at Antarwali Sarati on September 1, and the withdrawal of cases against the Maratha quota supporters during the violence and protests against the lathicharge across the state.The state has already suspended Jalnas additional superintendent of police Rahul Khade, Ambads sub-divisional police officer Mukund Aghav and Gondi police station in-charge assistant inspector Pradip Ekshinge besides sending Jalna SP Tushar Doshi on a forced leave. The state has also assured that the cases against protesters will be withdrawn.Jaranges main demand was the issuance of Kunbi caste certificates to all Maratha community members. On September 7, the state issued a government resolution (GR) stating that Kunbi caste certificates will be issued to all Marathas in the Marathwada region who possess the Nizam-era documents (such as revenue, education and other supporting records), and if Kunbi is mentioned in their genealogy. However, the GR was not acceptable to Jarange and his supporters.On Monday, Shinde told a press conference in Mumbai that the government had requested Jarange to give time to the Justice Shinde committee, which has been set up to examine the viability of giving Kunbi caste certificates to the Marathas.In the subsequent rounds of dialogue between the activist and the government representatives, Jarange agreed to a conditional withdrawal of his indefinite fast, giving 30 days to the state to fulfil its promises. This paved the way for the CMs visit to the protest site at Antarwali Sarati on Thursday.Union minister of state for railways Raosaheb Danve, industries minister Uday Samant, state ministers Girish Mahajan, Arjun Khotkar and Sandipan Bhumare, who played key roles in the negotiations between Jarange and the state government, were present when Shinde offered a glass of juice to Jarange and the latter took a couple of sips to signal the end of his indefinite fast amid loud cheers and sloganeering by his supporters.Later, addressing the gathering at the protest site, Shinde iterated the governments commitment to provide reservation to the Maratha community. It is our duty to give reservation to the Maratha community and we will not let them down. At the same time, we will ensure that injustice is not done to any other community. We will not sit back and relax until the Maratha community gets reservation.Shinde said an expert committee is working on a legally sustainable proposal for the Maratha reservation. He advised Jarange to get admitted to a hospital for treatment and assured that he would ensure the Maratha community wouldnt have to opt for hunger strikes in future to get their demands fulfilled. Jarange acknowledged the CMs unprecedented move of visiting the protest site and said, I have been saying that it is only CM Eknath Shinde who can do justice to the cause of the Maratha reservation. He expressed confidence that the state will start issuing OBC certificates within the stipulated timeframe, as mutually decided by the government and the agitators and that, if needed, he is ready for another indefinite hunger strike to get their long-pending demand fulfilled.He clarified that he was neither backed nor instigated by any political person or party. My elderly father still works on farms and feeds me. I did not take even a single rupee from anyone. If anyone can show that I took even one rupee or was sponsored, I will commit suicide the same day.Jaranges stir gained traction across the state after the September 1 lathicharge as the situation soon spiralled out of the states control with bandhs being announced across many districts. In some places, agitations turned violent with the police resorting to lathicharge on the protesters, further worsening the situation.Moreover, the state found itself up against a fresh dilemma caused by the OBC communities strong opposition to any move to accommodate the Marathas within the reservation available to them. The Dhangar community too has started an agitation renewing its demand for reservation.Against this backdrop, Jaranges decision to call off his hunger strike comes as a huge relief to the state government, especially as the elections to local bodies, Lok Sabha and state assembly are due soon.Acknowledging the CMs gesture, Jarange announced later that he was willing to give an additional 10 days, apart from the 30 days announced earlier, for the state government to resolve the issue. The quota agitation threatened to overshadow a three-day state cabinet meeting, which is to start on Friday at Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. Union minister Amit Shah too is scheduled for a visit to the city on Saturday to attend a function to mark the 75 years of the Marathwada Liberation Day.

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