Mumbai, June 12 () The Shiv Sena (UBT) on Monday demanded that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis tender an apology to the people of Maharashtra for the unprovoked police caning on the pilgrims taking part in the annual pilgrimage of Saint Dnyanesh Maharaj from Alandi to Pandharpur.
Sena (UBT) MP and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut said that both Shinde-Fadnavis must apologise to the people and the Varkaris (as the pilgrims are known) for the caning incident at Alandi.
“The CM performs the annual pooja at the Pandharpur Temple… This kind of treatment is an insult to the people and the Varkaris who were going on their annual pilgrimage from Alandia Unless the CM apologises, he has no right to perform the special pooja,” said Raut sternly.
However, Fadnavis and the police have flatly denied that there was any ‘lathi-charge’ and claimed it was a minor scuffle with some Varkaris who were allegedly attempting to barge inside the temple on Sunday afternoon, sparking a huge political row.
Congress state President Nana Patole, Chief Spokesperson Atul Londhe, NCP Working President Supriya Sule, state NCP President Jayant Patil, Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, Chief Spokesperson Mahesh Tapase, Sene (UBT)’s Raut, Sushma Andhare and other leaders have slammed the state government for the caning of the Varkaris.
Social media posts and TV clips show police personnel and some Varkaris in a tussle, with the cops resorting to a mild caning to deter the restless crowd, as over 8,00,000 devotees had gathered there for the annual event.
Some eyewitness reports said around 300-plus members of the Warkari Prashikshan Sanstha attempted to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple but were prevented by the police, leading to heated exchanges.
The pilgrimage involves a palanquin of Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj being taken in a long religious procession from Alandi (Pune) to Pandharpur (Solapur).
Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Commissioner Vinay Choubey and DCP Vivek Patil and other government officials contended that there was “no caning” of any devotes and the police had merely requested the Varkaris to avoid entering the temple without permission as the space in the sanctum sanctorum is very small.
As a precaution to avoid a near-stampede situation experienced last year, this year the authorities have restricted up to 75 member-devotees only per ‘dindi’ (palanquin procession), and passes have also been issued accordingly by the organisers.