Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has written a letter (adjoining picture, click/tap to enlarge) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting the latter to provide for reservations for the tribe. The letter does not clarify whether quota is sought for the group in educational institutions or employment or both.
The Dhangars (or Dhangads) are a herding caste of people primarily located in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The Kurumbar of Southern India are reasonably considered to belong to the same race. Their original home is said to be Gokul, Vrindavan, near Mathura. From Gokul they are said to have moved into Mewar, and from Mewar, to have spread into Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Dhangars worship gods like Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati and Mahalaxmi as their deities. The forms include Khandoba, Beeralingeswara (Biroba), Mhasoba, Dhuloba (Dhuleshwar), Vithoba, Siddhanath (Shidoba), Janai-Malai, Tulai, Yamai, Padubai and Ambabai. They generally worship the temple of these gods that is nearest to their residence which becomes their kuladev and kuladevi. In Jejuri, the deity Khandoba is revered as the husband of Banai, in her incarnation as a Dhangar. He is, therefore, popular amongst the Dhangars, as they consider him their Kuldevta. Khandoba (literally “father swordsman”) is the god of the shepherd community and the guardian deity of the Deccan. This means, if the demand is accepted, their reserved seats will be carved out of those reserved for the Scheduled Tribes, largely considered Hindu.
Pawar has asked for modification in the relevant entries in Schedule 2, Part IX of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976. Following that amendment, area restriction relating to many castes was lifted. The NCP chief mentions that, at present, the community/caste/tribe in Maharashtra is divided between shepherds and farmers. The group formed a political front called Dhangar Samaj Arakshan Kriti Samiti that submitted a memorandum to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan that, Pawar’s letter claims, has a formula to ensure that the two sub-sections of the group do not clash.
Finally, whichever section has to part with its reserved seats to accommodate the Dhangars will not take to it kindly, it is expected. In response to Pawar’s post on Facebook, Maharashtrians have flooded the thread with comments seeking reservation for their respective castes; the highest number of demands are for reservations for the Marathas.
Some followers of the page have demanded an end to caste-based reservations and asked for an economic basis to determine who deserves a quota. Some have quipped he shouldn’t panic in the wake of the NCP’s poor show at the recent Lok Sabha elections. Appreciations were few and far between.