The cartoonist for Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamana on Wednesday apologised for his work that appeared to mocked the protests held by the Maratha community for reservation quotas, reported PTI. Shrinivas Prabhudesai’s apology was published in Saamana where he said, “The sentiments of the Maratha community were hurt by my cartoon. But, there was never an intention to hurt anybody. Yet, I express regret if sentiments were hurt unintentionally."

The issue has snowballed, with the Shiv Sena blaming the Opposition parties for fueling the protests. Prabhudesai also said that the issue was being "politicised unnecessarily" and the Shiv Sena and Saamana were bring embroiled in the controversy.

The Congress was not satisfied with the cartoonist's apology and demanded that the newspaper's editor, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, be booked. Congress leader Nitesh Rane told PTI, "The editor has hurt the religious sentiments of the Maratha community. The cartoon could not have been published without his consent." According to IANS, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mumbai unit President Ashish Shelar has also asked Raut to publicly apologise to the Maratha community.

The apology comes a day after the cartoon published in Saamana drew widespread criticism from political leaders and triggered massive protests in the state. While a few protestors pelted stones at the daily’s office in Navi Mumbai, a separate group threw ink at the door of the paper’s bureau in Thane. The cartoon showed a man kissing a woman, who is holding a placard saying “Mooka Morcha” (kiss protest). The daily said the phrase was a pun on “Mook Morcha” (silent protests), the type of demonstrations being held by the Maratha community.

The cartoon was published at a time when thousands of Maratha people have been holding demonstrations and silent rallies across Maharashtra. They have demanded a 16% quota as well as amendments to The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Their protests have also been aimed at the gangrape and murder case of a 14-year-old in Ahmednagar district’s Kopardi village. Marathas have demanded the accused be sentenced to death. State Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said his government is committed to fulfilling the community’s quota demand.