The debate over the Prevention of Atrocities Act refuses to die down in Maharashtra. Just days after Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar held a presser in Mumbai to clarify his stand on the issue, his party MP, Udayanraje Bhosle, has sought the repealing of the Act. Huge silent rallies by Marathas in various towns of Marathwada have also shown the strength of the community. Many such rallies are being planned in parts of western Maharashtra too.

Asked about Bhosle’s demand, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the party could not stop individual MPs from having their own opinions. Bhosle sought that the Atrocities (Prevention) Act should be scrapped, and not repealed. “As far as we are concerned, Sharad Pawar Saheb has already clarified the party’s stand on the matter,” Malik said.

There is anger within the Maratha community about the alleged misuse of the Atrocities Prevention Act. After the recent rape and murder of a Maratha girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district, the anger has got aggravated. Whenever any politician has visited the victim’s family, the first demand of the local Maratha community has been that Prevention of Atrocities Act be modified or repealed.

The representatives of the Dalit community have objected to this stand. As RPI leader and Union minister Ramdas Athawale said, “There is no relation of Atrocities (Prevention) Act to the Kopardi case. The accused in the case are Dalits. So Sharad Pawar should rethink of his stand on the issue. We need to understand that the Atrocities (Prevention) Act, 1989, was the Protection of Civil Rights Act. Parliament has passed the Act. Parliamentarians of all castes and creeds have passed this Act. There is no way of changing the law.”

Earlier, Sharad Pawar was believed to have sought changes in the law. But he held a press conference in Mumbai to clarify that he had only said that the law should not be misused. “In many places, it has been found that the upper castes are misusing the Act due to their personal animosity. This misuse of the Act should be stopped. I don’t demand anything beyond it,” Sharad Pawar said.

“The Atrocities (Prevention) Act is being widely misused here. In Ahmednagar too, many false cases have been registered on people out of personal fights. I know of cases where a Dalit person had taken a loan from a person. When that person sought his money back, the Dalit filed an atrocity case against him. There is lot of anger against this piece of legislation among the Maratha community. It should not be misused grossly like this,” a Shiv Sena leader from Ahmednagar told The Sunday Guardian on the condition of anonymity. All those who spoke on the matter agreed that the Kopardi rape case could not be related to the Atrocities (Prevention) Act. But mass mobilisations are taking place in Marathwada on this issue. Massive rallies in Beed, Usmanabad, Aurangabad clearly linked the Kopardi case with the Atrocities (Prevention) Act.

“There is a volcano waiting to erupt in Maharashtra. There is no hope of justice for the Marathas. There is unrest among them also because they do not have any reservation in education, jobs. All these things have to be taken into consideration. Otherwise we will be responsible for the unrest within the community,” Congress leader Nitesh Rane told the media.

The demands of the community are changing the Atrocities (Prevention) Act, reviving Maratha reservation, and allotment of quota for employment and education.


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