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Sambhaji Brigade chief wants OBC status for Maratha community

Gaikwad demanded that percentage of quotas be increased beyond the present ceiling of 50 per cent and Marathas be recognised as Kunbis and included in the other backward classes (OBC) category.

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Sambhaji Brigade chief wants OBC status for Maratha community
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In a new twist to the demand for Maratha quotas, Sambhaji Brigade chief Pravin Gaikwad has sought that the community be included in the OBC category for reservation benefits. Gaikwad demanded that percentage of quotas be increased beyond the present ceiling of 50 per cent and Marathas be recognised as Kunbis and included in the other backward classes (OBC) category.

Gaikwad, who played a significant role in the battle for Maratha reservations and in the organisation of the silent Maratha Kranti Morchas, admitted that the 16 per cent quota announced by the state government could not stand a legal test.

"Marathas and Kunbis are the same. This dichotomy must be done away with. Kunbis are included in the OBC category and given quota benefits. Marathas and Kunbis are the same and intermarry," said Gaikwad, pointing to the writings of anthropologists like Irawati Karve and historian V.K Rajwade to stress that endogamy was a marker of caste.

He noted that an overwhelming number of Marathas in Vidarbha and significant numbers in Western Maharashtra were identified as Kunbis. The Hunter Statistical Commission had also said Marathas and Kunbis were the same.

He stressed that the Parliament must accept the report of the standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice under EM Sudarsana Natchiappan, which recommended that the ceiling of 50 per cent for SC, ST and OBC reservations imposed by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case be enhanced. Then, the quantum of OBC quotas has to be increased from the present 27 per cent to 52 per cent in proportion to their population and the Marathas be recognised as Kunbis and included in the OBC category. The report was submitted to the Parliament in 2005.

OBC groups have resisted suggestions that the Marathas be included in the category and given quota benefits including political reservations. This is because they fear being swamped by Marathas who are superior in numbers. However, Gaikwad said the hike in the quotas for OBCs would overcome their resistance to the inclusion of Marathas in their category.

"The decision to grant 16 per cent quotas for Marathas on the basis of economic and educational backwardness has no legal or Constitutional support," he admitted. The decision is subjudice and the state backward classes is examining its legal validity.

Gaikwad added the Backward Classes Commission under Kaka Kalelkar, which was set up in 1953, had recommended inclusion of Marathas in the OBCs and the report, which was submitted in 1955, prepared a list of 2,399 backward communities. However, the BP Mandal Commission set up by the Janata Party government in 1979, did not accept the claim of the Marathas.

However, writer-activist Sanjay Sonawani pointed out that the demand would entail the need for Constitutional amendments, which was beyond the state government's pale. "The demands for quotas for Marathas and Dhangars have been exploited for votes. The youth were given false hopes. The battle was used to create social divisions like Marathas vs OBCs. Three state backward classes commissions have rejected the demands of Marathas," he added, stating that reservations were not a "garibi hatao" measure but meant to correct social and educational backwardness.

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