Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said the state government regrets attacking Maratha quota protesters with batons in Jalna district last week, reported the Hindustan Times.
“Lathicharge by police was not right,” Fadnavis said. “...I am apologising on behalf of the Maharashtra government.”
Clashes had erupted between the police and those demanding reservations for the Maratha community on September 1 in Jalna. Several persons, including 40 police personnel, were injured as protestors threw stones and police used batons and teargas on them. Over 15 state transport buses were set on fire.
The violence continued on Saturday as more vehicles were allegedly torched by protesters in the district. Several other major cities in Maharashtra, including Solapur, Nanded, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, and Nagpur, have also witnessed protests in support of the reservation demand.
The police have so far arrested 40 people and registered a case against 600 persons in connection with the violence in Jalna, according to The Indian Express.
Opposition parties in Maharashtra had criticised the police action against the protesters. They also blamed Fadnavis, who also handles the home department, for the violence and demanded his resignation.
On Monday, Fadnavis said that the decision to use force against those protesting was not taken by any top official in the government, according to PTI.
“Such decisions [use of police force] are taken at the local level,” he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said that he held a high-level meeting on the issue of reservation for Marathas.
“I have already spoken to protesters and we will resolve this issue systematically,” he said, according to the Hindustan Times. “Our government is serious about resolving the issues related to the Maratha reservation.”
In 2018, the then Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra had approved 16% reservation for the Marathas in jobs and education after statewide protests. In 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the decision but said that the 16% quota was not justifiable.
In 2020, the Supreme Court stayed the decision. A year later, a larger bench of the Supreme Court quashed the reservation, calling it unconstitutional.
Meanwhile on Monday, Manoj Patil, who has been spearheading the protest in Jalna and has been on a hunger strike since August 29, warned of escalating the demonstrations if a government resolution on the Maratha quota is not issued by Tuesday, reported The Indian Express.
“We have already given a two-day ultimatum to the government,” Patil said. “Of which, one day is left now. If the government doesn’t take positive decisions on the reservation and issue a government resolution by tomorrow, we will announce our further course of action on Wednesday.”