A day after the Maharashtra assembly witnessed an uproar over allegations that a lake in adjoining Raigad district was ‘purified’ by a Shiv Sena MLA, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday informed the house that no such ritual took place.
“A Jalpujan ceremony was performed at Mahad on March 16 as part of the ‘Jaljagruti Saptah’ organised by the government. People of all castes and religions were present. All such news (of lake purification) in this regard is baseless,” Fadnavis said, making a statement in the assembly.
The house was adjourned on Monday with Congress-NCP opposition alleging that Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale recently performed a ‘purification’ ritual at the ‘Chavdar Tale’ at Mahad in Raigad district, where Babasaheb Ambedkar had in 1927 led a ‘water satyagraha’ to assert the rights of Dalits to use the water in the lake.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said there was no need to call the event, organised by a government department, as ‘jalpujan’.
An inquiry should be held to ascertain in which other place in the state such a jalpujan event was held, Chavan said.
Speaker Haribhau Bagade said there is nothing wrong with holding jalpujan ceremony.
Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had said Sena MLA Bharat Gogawale’s act amounted to “insulting” the Dalit icon, and sought a statement and apology from chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
In March 1927, Ambedkar had arranged a conference at Mahad and at the end of it, he and his followers marched to the Chavdar Tale (tasty water lake), the main tank of the town, and drank its water as a symbolic act to assert the right over its water to all sections of the society.
Vikhe Patil had also raked up the issue of police cases slapped on students of Pune’s Fergusson College for chanting ‘Jai Bhim’, a salutation used by Ambedkarites.
Referring to the Pune Fergusson college campus incident, Fadnavis today said college principal R G Pardeshi had initially written to the police asking them to arrest students on charges of sedition, but later realised that he had made a typo in his letter.
“The principal only wanted the police to investigate whether there had been anti-national activities and then withdrew his earlier letter and submitted the corrected letter,” the CM said.
The college has formed a fact finding committee on the issue, Fadnavis said.