Writer and activist Sanjay Sonawani has come out as one of the strongest voices against reservations to Marathas and Muslims on grounds of social and educational backwardness, Pune-based Sonawani pointed out that a large number of Muslims are already covered under reservations in various categories like the OBCs and there is no provision to grant quotas on religious grounds. Speaking to Dhaval Kulkarni, Sonawani, who said he had received threats over his opposition to Maratha reservations, noted that with reducing share of the government in jobs and education, it was a misnomer to consider reservations as the only panacea for backwardness.
Q: What are the grounds on which reservations for Marathas are being opposed?
A: Quotas can be granted on grounds of social backwardness when a community is discriminated on grounds of caste and are treated as secondary citizens. Marathas do not fall under this category. Educational backwardness is a relative term. This argument can be extended to claim that people in the US are educationally backward than those in India. Marathas also account for a majority of elected representatives and 15% of government employment in the open (50%) category. So, calling this representation inadequate does not hold water.
Q: What about reservations for Muslims?
A: No provisions exist in India to grant quotas on religious grounds. Muslim OBCs are already covered in the OBC category. Creating a separate category for Muslims does not fit into our Constitution.
Q: You say this decision will create social strife. How?
A: The Marathas were granted reservations soon after they began protesting. However, communities like Dhangars, Kolis, Agaris, Ramoshis and Vadars have been agitating for their demands since 1981 to no avail. They are backward and lack political power unlike Marathas. Earlier, the OBCs respected Marathas. However, OBC organisations took to the streets to oppose Maratha reservations and the Maratha leaders criticised them in turn, creating social cleavages. Even if Marathas have not been included in the OBC category, they will eat into the OBCs share of Central government jobs. Maratha leaders actually resent the political rise of the OBCs and want to stop it.
Q: Then, what is the way to ensure the amelioration of the poor Maratha and Muslims?
Q: Give them a separate package and scholarships. Reservations will hardly serve any purpose as government jobs are declining gradually due to privatisation. Instead, impetus must be given to agriculture related businesses like food processing and in ensuring that wastage of farm produce is reduced and used for this. Education is also being privatised and commercialised. In such conditions, how can any community claim that the only way to ensure progress is through reservations? Maratha leaders also control educational institutions. They must admit Maratha students for half fees.