Mumbai, Aug. 8: Maharashtra minister Harshavardhan Patil suffered an eye injury from a chemical thrown at him by suspected activists of a shepherd community demanding reservations since the quotas announced recently for the politically influential Marathas in the poll-bound state.
The attack with an “ink-like substance” on the Congress leader occurred in Baramati’s Indapur, the epicentre of the Dhangars’ agitation for Scheduled Tribe status.
The area in Pune district is the stronghold of Sharad Pawar’s NCP, the junior partner in the Congress-led ruling coalition whose announcement of the quotas for Marathas and backward Muslims in June prompted the Dhangars to renew their movement.
Patil was getting into his car after a programme when he ran into the Dhangars’ protest. “Four or five persons rushed towards me and splashed an ink-like substance. There is irritation, pain in my left eye and swelling on the face but I am okay. I appeal to everyone to maintain peace,” Patil said, emerging from a health centre with a bandage on the eye.
After Patil was driven to a Pune hospital for further treatment, Congress workers shut down the area. Four activists were detained.
Some state BJP leaders have backed the Dhangars’ demand, as have two anti-Pawar figures. One is Swabhimani Paksha MP Raju Shetti. The other is Mahadev Jankar, who gave Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule a tough fight in the Lok Sabha polls.
Today, Jankar, a Dhangar himself, appealed to activists “not to take the law into their hands”. Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, the BJP’s Vinod Tawde, said: “No one can justify such actions but it needs to be understood the government has been giving the Dhangars assurances but not taking a decision. This may have angered some.”