Following demonstrations by the Shiv Sena and Congress opposing the relocation of Maratha king Shivaji’s statue from the airport premises, the GVK Group that runs the airport wants Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s permission for this.
A GVK spokesperson said: “A new integrated passenger terminal is to be built at the location of the international terminal. This may require the relocation of the statue. Considering this, we will approach Balasaheb Thackeray on this matter and take his consent. Whatever we do, we will make sure that the sentiments of all followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji are respected.”
Sources in the Sena said officials from GVK met Thackeray at his Bandra home, Matoshree, on Friday. The company, however, refused to confirm this.
The GVK group, through its joint venture company Mumbai International Airport (MIAL), has taken over the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and is rebuilding it.
The MIAL says the statue is obstructing the airport’s makeover plan and proposed it be moved to a nearby location.
On Friday, Hindustan Times had reported about the controversy brewing over the relocation of the statue.
The MIAL had sought the municipal corporation’s permission to move the statue. Political parties, however, opposed this.
Sena leader Anil Parab and Congress corporator Kamlesh Rai demonstrated at GVK’s office at Marol on Friday.
“We will not allow them to relocate the statue without consulting us. We have also given them an ultimatum of 15 days to change posters saying ‘GVK welcomes you’ into ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport welcomes you’ put up along the road leading to the airport,” said Parab.
Parab said if the company fails to meet these demands, the Sena will handle the issue in its own way. He also demanded that Shivaji’s oil painting be installed in the airport.
The GVK spokesperson said the company has submitted a proposal to the state government to consider building a larger memorial to “celebrate Chhatrapati Shivaji’s legacy”. “In this connection, we will make sure we address the issues of all representatives of the people of Maharashtra. No action will be taken in this regard until all approvals are in place.”
Congress legislator from Vile Parle, Krishna Hegde, has written to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan asking him to intervene in the issue.
“Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is revered by all in our country and the international airport is aptly named after him, therefore his statue should be near the airport,” Hegde said in a statement.
“Shifting the statue will hurt the people’s sentiments and such a move will be resisted,” he added.