Villagers of Ralegan Siddhi, a native of Anna Hazare, clashed with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) workers when they arrived in the village to protest against the remarks made by anti-corruption crusader.
Villagers tried to beat up NCP workers who gathered in Ralegan Siddhi on Friday, a day after Hazare reacted rather sarcastically to the attack on NCP chief Sharad Pawar saying “He got slapped! Only one slap?” Hazare later retracted his statement and condemned the incident saying, “Such act of violence was not good.”
However the argument broke out between Ralegan Siddhi villagers and NCP workers, who gathered for protests in front of Yadav baba temple, a place where Hazare stays.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) sponsored a day-long Pune bandh on Friday which evoked mixed response as commercial establishments in some parts of the city remained close while public transport, educational and financial institutions functioned throughout the day.
NCP called the Pune Bandh in protest against Thursday’s incident where party chief Sharad Pawar was slapped by a person named Harvinder Singh. According to Singh, whom the police termed “mentally instable”, his act was in response to growing price rise and corruption in the country.
Agitated over the attack on their leader, NCP workers carried out rallies in areas of heavy commercial activity. This prompted shop owners to shut their shops for the day while impact of Bandh was marginal in suburban areas of city.
Pune mayor Manmohan Rajpal had earlier stated that there will be total shutdown call by NCP. However following criticism from some quarters and NCP chief Pawar’s call to maintain peace, Rajpal reviewed his position saying the party wont force educational institution to shut.
The Neighboring Baramati, native of Pawar, also observed the bandh to condemn the incident.
Later Hazare came out of Yadav baba temple and asked protestors what made them feel so agitated over his remarks. “You are angry over one slap to your leader. I have already condemned the incident but why didn’t you get angry when farmers were lathi-charged and killed in Maval?,” asked Hazare. He was referring to recent agitation by farmers of Maval in which three persons were killed during police firing.
Despite Hazare’s appeal for calm, both, his Hazare supporters and NCP workers continued arguing. After few minutes, the NCP workers left the village, only to return within an hour with full strength. The NCP workers, while returning to Ralegan Siddhi village in vehicles, were blocked by Hazare supporters.
The supporters of Gandhian, even tried to beat some NCP workers and attempted to damage vehicles to prevent them from entering into the village. The Parner police later detained NCP workers while security of Hazare has been beefed up.
“The agitation by NCP was stage-managed and a theatrics. We wanted them leave our village because they burnt Anna’s effigy, abused him and in a way dishonored the call by Anna to maintain peace,” said Suresh Pathare, personal assistant of Hazare. Pathare also claimed that he has been receiving threat calls over phone. When asked about villagers resorting to violence, Pathare said, “Hazare is like god to Ralegan Siddhi. When Hazare was abused and his effigy was burnt, some villagers turned angry even as we are trying to keep them remain calm.”
The NCP leaders criticized the behavior of Hazare supporters terming their opposition to peaceful protest shows their “contempt to Gandhian values.”
“Today’s act of Ralegan Siddhi villagers show how they have insulted Gandhian values,” said NCP state unit chief Madhukar Pichad.
Another NCP leader from Ahmednagar district Babanrao Pachpute alleged that Hazare’s fellow villagers beat up NCP workers, who wanted to peacefully demonstrate. “People of Ralegan Siddhi behaved as if we have come from Pakistan and they only live in India.”
Pachpute added: “The issue is over for us as we do not further want to create unrest. It’s now up to Hazare to decide what his fellow villagers wants to do.”