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Political parties lay siege to PMC ban on Shaniwarwada events

The commissioner’s decision came against the background of the recent Bhima Koregaon violence after investigative reports alleged misuse of the venue in the name of cultural programmes.

pune Updated: Jan 20, 2018 15:20 IST
Abhay Khairnar
Abhay Khairnar
Hindustn Times, Pune
shaniwarwada,pune,pmc
Shaniwarwada has traditionally been the showpiece venue for major events - political, social and cultural - in the city.(HT File Photo)

A decision by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) commissioner Kunal Kumar, to ban all provocative cultural programmes at the city’s iconic and historic fort, Shaniwarwada, has faced fierce resistance from political parties across the lines in the city.

The commissioner’s decision came against the background of the recent Bhima Koregaon violence after investigative reports alleged misuse of the venue in the name of cultural programmes.

The civic chief and city mayor Mukta Tilak believed that there was no choice, but to only allow government and municipal corporation programmes at the former Peshwa fort.

However, as soon as the decision went public, a political storm began taking shape and the mayor on Friday instructed the municipal commissioner to withhold the ban and let the elected members take a call on it.

Tilak said that the proposal would be put before the general body which will take a final call on the same. Shaniwarwada has traditionally been the showpiece venue for major events - political, social and cultural - in the city.

Recently, the Elgar Parishad was organised at the venue where Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid addressed the gathering.

This event was organised to mark 200 years of the victory of Bhima Koregaon battle, where Dalits helped the British defeat the Peshwas.

There are allegations that the Mevani and Khalid speeches led to the Bhima Koregaon unrest and the violence that followed.

However, opposition parties and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have stated that the municipal commissioner does not have the right to enforce a ban on the venue and that elected members would take a final decision in the general body meeting.

Opposition party leaders Arvind Shinde from the Congress and Vishal Tambe from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) demanded action against the municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar for “encroaching on the rights of elected members”.

And what of the Shaniwarwada Festival?

The Shaniwarwada Festival is one of Pune’s showcase cultural fests which is held at the Shaniwarwada. If the ban is enforced, the festival would lose use of the fort as its location.

BJP MLAs Vijay Kale and Medha Kulkarni say they have been involved in conducting the Shaniwarwada festival at the Shaniwarwada for the last 17 years . Kale says, “The commissioner came up with this controversial issue to divert the attention of citizens and media. Just to cover the administration’s mistakes, this controversial ban has been executed and we will oppose it.”

Kale said that the festival has been on at Shaniwarwada for the last 17 years, but there has not been a single complaint with the traffic police or the PMC .

Kulkarni says that if there is an issue related to safety, it is applicable to other auditoriums as well. “Instead of banning programmes, the administration should take precautionary measures,” Kulkarni said.

First Published: Jan 20, 2018 15:20 IST