CM cancels Pandharpur temple visit amid protest threats
Mumbai, July 22. Protests by the Maratha community which is demanding reservation in educational institutions and government jobs in Maharashtra turned violent with several vehicles being attacked and a state transport bus being set on fire in Solapur district on Saturday.
According to state police, protesters set a Maharashtra state trassnport bus on fire at Uttar Solapur tehsil in the district as part of a rasta roko. Several buses were also stoned and traffic stopped in Aurangabad district as well, police added.
Leaders of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which has called the protests, say they newer leaders who have taken control of the organisation are more aggressive than their predecessors who organised 58 silent marches across Maharashtra in 2016. “The protests this time are being led by a newer set of youths who feel cheated by the government because of unfulfilled promises made last time,” Virendra Pawar, a community leader who was part of the protests last time said.
Protesting youths of the Maratha community said they would not allow Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his wife Amruta to enter Solapur district on Monday. As per tradition, the Chief Minister kicks off the puja at the temple of Lord Vithal at the temple town of Pandharpur on the occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi which falls on Monday this year.
Members of the MKM said they are looking for a concrete assurance from Fadnavis on reservation for the community before the Fadnavis couple are allowed entry into Pandharpur.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday said he has cancelled his visit to a temple in Pandharpur town for a key religious event tomorrow in view of the proposed protest seeking reservation for Maratha community in government jobs.
Explaining the reason for calling off his visit, Fadnavis said he feared for the lives of nearly 10 lakh people expected to be at the temple town in Solapur district on Monday on the occasion of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’.
He said if throwing stones at him can get the reservation for Maratha community, he was ready for it and that he took the decision of not to offer prayers at the temple to avoid any law and order problem.
As part of a long-standing tradition, the chief minister every year offers prayers at the temple dedicated to Lord Vitthal and Rukmini in Pandharpur, located around 400 km from here, on the occasion of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’.
The auspicious day of performing puja is decided as per the lunar calendar and this year it falls on July 23.
Some Maratha community leaders have threatened to disrupt the religious event if their demands, including reservation in government jobs and education, are not accepted by the government.
The chief minister said only the court can take a decision on the issue of grant of reservation to the Maratha community.
“Some (pro-reservation) organisations are aware of it; still they are instigating the community. If throwing stones at me can get the reservation for Maratha community, then I am ready for it,” he said.
Ekadashi marks the culmination of a pilgrimage, called ‘waari’, that devotees undertake from across the state on foot to reach the temple town in western Maharashtra.