Maharashtra allows Prakash Ambedkar to visit temple in Pandharpur after protest by VBA
The administration in Pandharpur town of Maharashtra’s Solapur district on Monday allowed members of the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and warkaris (pilgrims) to enter the Lord Vitthal temple after he led a protest demanding opening of temples in the state.
Ambedkar, grandson of B R Ambedkar, later claimed that chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has assured him of reopening all religious places in the next eight days.
Earlier in the day, the VBA leader was stopped by police when he arrived at Pandharpur where as a large number of supporters gathered. After two hours, the district administration allowed Ambedkar along with a select number of warkaris to visit the temple.
“I along with 15 others went inside Lord Vitthal temple. The CM has now assured me that the government will issue Standard Operating procedures for devotees and open temples in next eight days. I welcome his decision,” Ambedkar told reporters.
When Ambedkar arrived at the Shivaji square, a massive crowd accompanied him to enter the temple. As he began marching towards the temple with a select number of followers, police stopped him and asked him to wait for administration’s response to a letter Ambedkar had handed over to the District Collector.
“I had given a letter to Solapur district collector for allowing us to enter the temple. The collector responded after talking to the government and allowed 15 people to enter the temple,” Ambedkar said.
To prevent protesters from entering the temple, the local administration at Pandharpur had put up checkpoints at entry and exit points to the temple town while barricading the roads leading to Lord Vitthal temple.
Several pilgrim organisations have extended their support to VBA agitation seeking the opening of religious places across Maharashtra.
According to Solapur Superintendent of Police, Manoj Patil, notices have been issued to VBA workers. “We have served them notices under section 149 of CrPC. We have also barricaded streets leading to the temple in order to prevent anyone visiting the religious place,” Patil said. The notices asked protesters not to break the law.
To prevent anyone from entering the temple town, authorities had suspended the state transport bus service to Pandharpur for a day.