Massive Maratha Rallies and the victory of Democracy!!! -October 4, 2016

The mammoth congregations of the Maratha Community which have been happening at every district centre since the unfortunate and ghastly rape incident at Kopardi (district Nagar, Maharashtra) took place, have stirred the politics across the entire state. The outrage however is not limited to the rape incident alone and spans various issues like the economic deprivation of the Maratha community, the plight of the farmers – majority of whom are the Marathas, misuse of Atrocity Act which has hurt them and their long standing demand for reservation.

It is clearly visible that the community, for years, has been facing deprivation. This even inspite of the fact that 13 out of the 18 Chief Ministers that the State has seen belong to the Maratha community. Not just that; largest chunk of the ministerial portfolios, most educational institutes, most cooperative banks, sugar factories, APMC’s and most centers of power have been controlled by leaders belonging to the community itself.

Hence, the rallies also appear to be against the established leadership of the community which has enjoyed the fruits of power but has failed to address the genuine concerns of the community. There is however a marked difference between every mammoth rally which has been organized in independent India and this one.

Inspite of having seen such massive response the rally still appears to be leaderless by design. Politicians who otherwise leave no chance at hogging the limelight; have been by design forced to stand last in the gatherings. At every rally it is only young girls and women who lead the show. The rally is conducted in pin drop silence. Though there might be some minor internal rumbling, the rally does not resort to any sloganeering against any other community. All the congregations end with the singing of the national anthem. Crowds as large as 10 lakh and more have been recorded but there is no littering in public space.

Similar community protests have been organized many a times across our country but hardly any would have matched the scale, the discipline, the patience and the spontaneous response. Many observers say that some leadership will spring up through these rallies in the day to come. I personally believe that this has been the best example of community and collective leadership while adhering to strict self imposed democratic principles. It is important to note that historically the Maratha community is known for wielding brute muscle and economic power. It could have been easier for them to resort to violence and sloganeering and force the establishment to bow before them. But I feel this is the vary maturing of democracy that our freedom fighters once hoped for.

While it is necessary that all their judicious demands be met at the earliest, it is also necessary that these features of calm and collective leadership remains and spreads across other social movements as well.

If the collective wisdom of our society at large can grow to such stature, individualistic leadership might as well be a thing of the past.

- Prof. Manish S Kelkar