Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil on Thursday withdrew his hunger strike after holding a discussion with a Maharashtra government delegation, The Indian Express reported.
Jarange-Patil has been spearheading a protest demanding quotas for the Maratha community in education and government jobs.
The community has been demanding reservations for decades, citing a decline in financial stability following agrarian distress. A series of massive protests were organised to press for the demand in 2017 and 2018. These demands for the Maratha quota resurfaced in recent months with Jarange-Patil launching a fresh agitation for the cause in August. The fresh agitation has witnessed violence, suicides and the resignation of legislators in support of reservations.
The activist had first begun a hunger strike on August 29 but ended it soon after, giving the Maharashtra government a 40-day deadline to implement the reservations expired. However, on October 25, Jarange-Patil resumed his indefinite hunger strike after the deadline elapsed.
On Thursday, although Jarange-Patil ended the fast, he warned the Maharashtra government of a bigger agitation if no action was taken in granting reservations, reported PTI.
Jarange-Patil has given the government time till January 2 to announce a “blanket reservation” for all Marathas.
“Take time but provide the reservation,” he said. “This is the last time that I am giving you some more time. Take two months, otherwise, Marathas will stop Mumbai.”
The activist added the relay fasts, in which people take turns to go without food, will continue.
In 2018, under pressure, the Maharashtra government – then comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party and a united Shiv Sena – provided 16% reservations for the Marathas under the socially and educationally backward category.
However, the Supreme Court blocked the Maratha quota in 2021 citing the 50% cap on total reservations it had set in 1992. The court said that there were no “exceptional circumstances” or an “extraordinary situation” in Maharashtra for the state government to breach the limit.
Maharashtra currently offers 62% reservation in educational institutions and government jobs, including 10% for the economically weaker sections.