CHHATRAPATI SAMBHAJINAGAR: Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange on Thursday ended his indefinite hunger strike in the presence of chief minister Eknath Shinde and other state ministers — 17 days after he launched the protest at Antarwali Sarati village in Ambad taluka of Maharashtra‘s Jalna district demanding quota for Marathas in jobs and education.

Securing the CM’s presence at Antarwali Sarati to call off the strike was one of Jarange’s three key conditions.

The other two conditions included the suspension of the police officers, who ordered the lathicharge on the peaceful protestors at Antarwali Sarati on September 1, and withdrawal of cases against the Maratha quota supporters during the violence and protests at places across the state to protest the lathicharge.
The state has already suspended Jalna’s additional superintendent of police Rahul Khade, Ambad’s 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 and has assured withdrawal of cases.
Jarange’s main demand was issuance of Kunbi caste certificates for all members of the Maratha community. On September 7, the state issued a government resolution (GR) stating that Kunbi caste certificates will be issued to all Marathas from the Marathwada region who possess the ‘Nizam-era’ documents such as revenue, educational 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 fulfill its promises, thus paving the way for the CM’s visit to the protest site at Antarwali Sarati on Thursday.
Union minister of state railways Raosaheb Danve, 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 reiterated the government’s 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 a reservation.”
Shinde said an expert committee is working on a legally sustainable proposal for reservation to the Maratha community.
He advised Jarange to get admitted to a hospital for treatment and assured that he will ensure that the Maratha community won’t have to opt for hunger strikes in future to get their demands fulfilled.
Jarange acknowledged the CM’s “unprecedented” move to 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 Maratha reservation.”
He expressed confidence that the state will start issuing OBC certificates within the stipulated time frame as mutually decided by the government and the agitators and that he is ready for another indefinite hunger strike to get their long pending demand fulfilled, if needed.
He clarified that he was neither backed nor instigated by any political person or party.
“My elderly father still works in farms and feeds me. I did not take even a single rupee from anyone. If anyone can show that I took even a single rupee or was sponsored, I will commit suicide the same day.”
Jarange’s stir gained traction across the state after the September 1 lathicharge as the situation soon went out of the state’s control with sporadic bandhs being announced across many districts. In some places, the agitation turned violent with the police resorting to lathi-charge 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, Jarange’s decision to call off his hunger strike comes as a huge relief to the state government, especially in a year when the elections to local bodies, Lok Sabha and state assembly are due.
Acknowledging the CM’s 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 from 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.
Watch Maratha quota stir: Opposition takes on Maha govt, Shinde says ‘committed to reservation’ for community

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