Pune tense over statue issue
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Pune tense over statue issue

Pune was tense on Monday following violence that was sparked over the removal of the statue of Dadoji Konddev, Shivaji’s teacher. Yogesh Joshi and Ketaki Ghoge report.

mumbai Updated: Dec 28, 2010 02:06 IST

Pune was tense on Monday following violence that was sparked over the removal of the statue of Dadoji Konddev, Shivaji’s teacher. The statue was removed from Lal Mahal, in Kasba Peth, in the wee hours on Monday, evoking strong reactions from the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, leading to violence in the civic body and other places.

Sena has called a Pune bandh on Tuesday to protest the move, while the BJP and MNS have accused deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and the NCP of encouraging the Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha outfit, that has been demanding the removal for political gain. The brigade insists Konddev, a Bramhin, was not Shivaji’s teacher and Bramhin historians were misleading the people.

Four days ago, the NCP-controlled Pune Municipal Corporation passed a resolution to remove Konddev’s statue from the historical Lal Mahal. The statue was removed at 2am on Monday. Angry BJP and Sena corporators later ransacked the civic hall. BJP workers also attacked Sambhaji Brigade’s office at Navi Peth and pelted Pune MP Suresh Kalmadi’s house with stones.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the government would not intervene in the decision. The removal of Konddev’s statue may have been celebrated by Maratha offshoots as a victory on Monday, but on the socio-political scene, the issue has the potential to create a schism between two communities – Brahmins and Marathas – political observers fear.

While Maratha-dominated NCP and Congress have supported the move, the Shiv Sena has opposed it considering their own pan Maharashtra politics of inclusion.

The MNS, which has been exploiting Marathi Asmita as an issue to expand its party base, reacted just as strongly to the issue. Calling the Sambhaji brigade a stooge of the ruling NCP, MNS chief Raj Thackeray accused the ruling alliance of trying to play caste politics. “Historians who have researched Shivaji have all outlined the role of Dadoji Konddev.”

Konddev’s statue, a part of a sculpture depicting a teenaged Shivaji with mother Jijabai tilling the land with a golden plough, was at the centre of controversy after Sambhaji Brigade objected to it.

“Maratha offshoots believe Konddev was a figure created by Brahmins to dilute Maratha supremacy,” said Vinay Hardikar, a political observer. Prakash Pawar, head of political science department at Ferguson College, said, “Keeping the civic polls in mind, parties are going to exploit the situation.”

‘There was a strong demand for removal of the statue’: Ajit Pawar

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, under attack from the opposition for supporting the removal of the Dadoji Konddev statue, told Hindustan Times that the state had no role to play in the decision. He said it had been decided by the local corporation and had the backing of the masses.

The decision to remove the statue has received flak from all quarters. The opposition says you are supporting hardline Maratha outfits to get political mileage?

The decision to remove the statue was taken by the Pune civic body. It was not the state government’s decision. The opposition can say what it wants, but the fact is that the issue has been on the boil for some time now. There have been demands from various groups to remove the statue. Recently, there was a huge morcha led by (activist) Baba Adhav across communities making the same demand. A majority of the corporators felt such a strong sentiment should not be ignored.

The NCP dominates the PMC and you are the leader of the party in the state. The decision to remove the statue must have been taken after your assent.

My personal opinion is irrelevant here. NCP rules PMC and shares power in the state but I don’t interfere in decisions taken by local elected leaders, especially if they have followed a legitimate procedure.

The controversy over the statue has led to the opposition calling a bandh in Pune on Tuesday...

The police will do its job, we will not allow this to affect the common man. I have spoken to the police commissioner of Pune, who said the situation is under control.

The Sena has said that such issues are being played up to divert attention from controversies dogging NCP like Lavasa.

The issue of the statue has been gathering steam for some time now, much before the Lavasa controversy hit the limelight. The state government has made its stance very clear. If there are any irregularities in building the hill station, the state will seek penalties.

First Published: Dec 28, 2010 02:02 IST