Mumbai: Members of the Dhangar community held a protest march here on Friday as part of their agitation for a Scheduled Tribe status.
Clad in traditional Dhangar attire, the protesters reached Mumbai with their goats and sheep to participate in the march, which began from Byculla and culminated at Azad Maidan in South Mumbai.
"We have decided to launch a statewide agitation for seeking Scheduled Tribe status," Dhangar Samaj Aarakshan Kriti Samiti leader Hanumant Sul said.
"If the decision to include Dhangars in the Scheduled Tribe category is not taken at Saturday`s meeting, we will launch a stir all over Maharashtra from Sunday," he said.
On July 15, Dhangar Samaj Aarakshan Kriti Samiti members held a protest at Pandharpur in Solapur district, culminating in Baramati on July 21.
BJP leaders including Maharashtra state president Devendra Fadnavis, leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde, senior leader Madhav Bhandari, and MLA Pankaja Munde Palwe had extended support to the protesters.
The Dhangar community has claimed significant presence in 78 of 288 assembly seats, including Baramati and Madha.
The community demanded Scheduled Tribe status after the Maharashtra state government sanctioned 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions.
Presently, Dhangars in Maharashtra get reservation benefits under Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT), which they have said, is not enough.
However, tribal legislators under the leadership of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Madhukar Pichad have threatened to resign en masse if Dhangars are included in the Scheduled Tribe category.
"Dhangars are not tribals. If the Maharashtra state government includes them under the tribal category, we will agitate. The government should not succumb to pressure exerted by the community," Pichad said.