Explained: Who is Manoj Jarange-Patil, the face of Maratha reservation agitation
Jarange-Patil, a 41-year-old farmer had been on a hunger strike in Ataravali-Sarate village since August 29. On the fourth day of his strike, a police contingent attempted to forcibly admit him to a hospital, leading to a clash between the police and his supporters.
Until September 1, Manoj Jarange-Patil was an unknown figure in Maharashtra, despite his consistent involvement in agitations for Maratha community reservations. The marginal farmer from Jalna district had been participating in protests and silent marches for years, seeking social justice for the Marathas, yet he remained in relative obscurity. However, a significant turning point came on September 1 when a police lathi-charge altered his fate.
Jarange-Patil, a 41-year-old farmer had been on a hunger strike in Ataravali-Sarate village since August 29. On the fourth day of his strike, a police contingent attempted to forcibly admit him to a hospital, leading to a clash between the police and his supporters. This encounter, marked by lathi charges, teargas shells, and allegations of police brutality, thrust the previously unknown Maratha activist into the political spotlight.
The events of September 1 prompted politicians from across the spectrum to rush to pacify him and express their support for the Maratha reservation cause. In the past two days, prominent state politicians like NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray, former chief minister Ashok Chavan, Union Minister Raosaheb Danve, and MNS chief Raj Thackeray have all visited Ataravali-Sarate to meet Jarange-Patil and show their solidarity.
Hailing from Beed district but residing in Shahgad, Jalna district, after his marriage, Jarange-Patil joined the movement for Maratha reservations in government jobs and education approximately 15 years ago. He actively participated in numerous marches, protests, and even sold a portion of his agricultural land to sustain his daily expenses.
Initially associated with the Congress, Jarange-Patil eventually established an organization named the Shivba Sanghatana to coordinate protests for Maratha reservation. The gruesome rape and murder of a 15-year-old Maratha girl in Kopardi in 2016 became a focal point for various Maratha groups, sparking statewide protests. Shivba activists even went as far as to attack the accused when they were brought to court for a hearing.
In 2021, when the Supreme Court invalidated the Maratha reservation quota, Jarange-Patil engaged in demonstrations at various locations, including a three-month-long agitation in Sasht-Pimpalgaon, Jalna district, which saw the participation of hundreds of people.
The then Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, took notice of the protests and invited Jarange-Patil for a meeting in Mumbai, leading to the withdrawal of the activist's protest. He had also played a crucial role in raising funds for the families of Maratha activists who lost their lives during protests for reservation in 2016-17.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had a 20-25 minute phone call with him, marking their first conversation since Jarange-Patil initiated his second hunger strike seven days ago. During the call, Shinde assured Jarange-Patil of his government's commitment to securing reservations for the Maratha community and urged him to advocate for peaceful demonstrations.
In a press conference in Mumbai, Chief Minister Shinde expressed concern that the agitation for Maratha reservations had lost direction and turned violent. He called upon Jarange-Patil to ensure that the community's agitation remained peaceful.
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