Mumbai: Congress party member and opposition leader in the Maharashtra assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil on Wednesday warned that if the state government did not decide quickly on reservations for Marathas, Muslims and Dhangars (a shepherd community), the state could witness chaos similar to the one unfolding in neighbouring Gujarat.

At least seven people have died in clashes in Gujarat and the Army had to be called in after a massive agitation by the Patidar community demanding inclusion in the list of other backward classes (OBCs) turned violent.

“If the state government doesn’t take a decision on giving reservations to Marathas, Muslims and Dhangars within a fortnight, Maharashtra might also erupt like Gujarat... We are warning the government that if they don’t act, the situation in Maharashtra will be as explosive as Gujarat and if any untoward incident happens, it will be solely the responsibility of the state government," Vikhe-Patil said.

In June 2014, the state government, then headed by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine, created a special category called socially and economically backward classes and gave 16% and 5% reservations to Marathas and Muslims respectively in government-run educational institutions and government jobs.

The Bombay high court stayed the decision but allowed 5% reservations to Muslims in government-run educational institutions.

In April, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena government issued a fresh notification giving reservation to Marathas but scrapped reservation for Muslims, claiming there was no provision for religion-based reservation in the Constitution. However, the decision was not implemented as the Bombay high court stay continues.

Dhangars, who are currently included in Other Backward Classes (OBC) wants the status of Scheduled Tribe as they claim their brethren in other states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir among other enjoy similar status. The BJP, in the run-up to assembly elections, had assured reservations to Dhangars in the ST category, without affecting the existing quota for STs.

Communities such as Mahadev-Kolis, Bhill, Gonds and Katkaris are against including Dhangars in the ST category as they claim that Dhangars are socially and economically more affluent and if they are included in ST category, then all the benefits of ST reservations will flow to them.

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