Maratha quota protest: Fadnavis says sorry for cop action

Several Maratha quota protestors were injured in police lathicharge in Jalna on September 1
CM Eknath Shinde with Dy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar. The Opposition has demanded Fadnavis’ resignation over police action on Maratha protestors  | pti
CM Eknath Shinde with Dy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar. The Opposition has demanded Fadnavis’ resignation over police action on Maratha protestors | pti

MUMBAI:  Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the state home minister, on Monday, apologized for the September 1 police lathi charge on the Maratha quota protestors in Jalna, saying the government regrets the use of force. However, the Opposition demanded Fadnavis’ resignation over failing to maintain peace, terming the government action as an assault on Maratha protestors’ rights.
The police lathicharged and lobbed teargas shells to disperse a violent mob in Antarwali Sarathi village in Jalna district Friday after protesters allegedly refused to let authorities shift a man on hunger strike for Maratha quota to hospital.

Several people, including 40 police personnel, were injured and more than 15 state transport buses were set ablaze in violence. Fadnavis said the lathicharge order was not given by any top official to the Jalna police. “Such decisions (use of police force etc.) are taken at the local level,” said Fadnavis. “I beg their pardon over their physical injuries caused by the police action,” said Fadnavis.

Leader of Opposition and Congress MLA Vijay Wadettiwar said Fadnavis should take responsibility and step down Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, too, demanded the home minister’s scalp as he failed to protect the Maratha protestors. Fadnavis refused to resign, clarifying that the police used the force when the protestors tried to throw stones at them.

He said when Sharad Pawar was the chief minister, the police used lathicharge on the Govaris. “As many as 103 lost their lives in the Nagpur protest, but Sharad Pawar did not step down as chief minister,” recalled Fadnavis. Sharad Pawar said during his government, Madhukar Pichad was the social justice minister. “Owning moral responsibility, Pichad had resigned from the cabinet after the 1994 episode.”
Pawar said the dictatorship was going on in Maharashtra. “Fadnavis is responsible for the attack on the Maratha community. We condemn the incident,” said Pawar.

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray said the Maharashtra government is “run by one full (CM Eknath Shinde ) and two half (two deputy CM’s Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis) people. “When the attacks took place on the Maratha community, it is to be investigated as to what these one-full-and-two-halves were doing,” he quipped. The state government has decided to initiate an inquiry into the alleged police firing and and the lathicharge.

In November 2014, when the coalition government was in power under the leadership of then CM Devendra Fadnavis, the government announced the Maratha reservation. The High Court upheld the Maratha quota decision taken by the government. But the Supreme Court took a different decision, Shinde said.

“Everyone knows that this is due to someone’s negligence...The issue of the Maratha reservation is currently in the court. The state is fully prepared to fight this case in court...There are some difficulties, and the state is trying to resolve them,” Shinde said. In 1997, Maratha Sangh and Maratha Seva Sangh organised the first major Maratha agitation for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.

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