A week after communal riots broke out in western Maharashtra’s Sangli and Kolhapur districts and the saffron combine derived much-wanted political mileage out of it ahead of the Assembly polls, CM Ashok Chavan engaged in damage control on Tuesday. He heaved a sigh of relief as the meeting reached consensus.
Chavan invited all party leaders to find a consensus on how the situation be controlled. The meeting, which started on a fiery note but cruised comfortably thereafter, decided that no leader would visit the affected areas and should avoid making any communal comment.
However, the demand of the Ganesh Mandals in Miraj, about 380 km southwest of Mumbai, that they be allowed to restore a cut-out that depicted Maratha warrior Chhtrapati Shivaji slaying Adilshah’s general Afzal Khan, was not met immediately. The removal of the cut-out had triggered violence on the day of Ganesh immersion last week, following which the mandals refused to immerse idols.
Subsequent rioting resulted in one person’s death. Property worth crores was gutted in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satata districts.
Citing helplessness in view of the model code of conduct for polls, Chavan left the decision on the poster to the Sangli district administration. A leader who attended the meeting told HT requesting anonymity that the administration was unlikely to reinstall the depiction.
“All parties have appealed in a joint statement to the mandals that they should start immersing idols from Wednesday. The administration has assured to relax curfew for the purpose during the daytime,” Chavan said after the meeting.
The joint meeting decided that the criminal cases against innocent people be withdrawn. “This will be done on case to case basis,” said Chavan.
BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde, who had seized the opportunity to rejuvenate his party’s prospects, also attended the meeting. Shiv Sena leaders Ramdas Kadam and Diwakar Raote, who was detained in Miraj on Monday, were also present.
Munde cancelled his visit to Miraj on Tuesday and returned to Mumbai but not before attacking the Congress-NCP for giving “communal colour to situation in Sangli and Miraj”.
On Monday, the police had stopped Munde from flying to Kolhapur and later in the day, they detained him at Khandala but released him on technical grounds. Several cheerful workers had gathered in Kothrud after Munde lashed out at government saying “it has completed its 100 sins”.
Munde told media after the meeting: “I’m satisfied. I will not visit any place because I too want to make peace.”