The Times of India
Afzal Khan fires up saffron combine
Leaders rush to
Miraj where Ganesh mandal was told to remove depiction of Shivaji
Maharaj killing Bijapur general
Leaders of the Shiv Sena and BJP are making a beeline for Miraj in
Sangli district to express support for members of a Ganesh mandal who
were told by the police to remove a depiction of warrior-king
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj killing Afzal Khan. Police arrived at the
pandal on the last day of immersion on September 3 and said it was
disturbing communal harmony.
Contrary to their expectations, the move resulted in communal
disturbances. It became so controversial that curfew had to be imposed
in Miraj and adjoining Sangli. On Monday, arson and violence erupted
The controversy could not come at a worse time for the ruling
Congress-NCP, as it has given ammunition to the opposition in the
run-up to the Assembly elections scheduled for October 13. And, the
saffron combine is milking the controversy for all it is worth.
On Sunday, BJP MLCs Madhu Chavan and Prakash Shendge were detained at
Kolhapur airport and sent back in the same plane that they had arrived
from Mumbai. In Sangli, Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe was arrested and her
party colleagues – MLC Diwakar Raote and Parshuram Uparkar – were
detained for 24 hours in Karad in neighbouring Satara district.
On Monday, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray alleged that the “government
is protecting those engaged in the desecration of Lord Ganesha idols”.
The same morning, senior BJP leader MP Gopinath Munde sat on a dharna
for 45 minutes at Mumbai airport after being stopped by Dy
Commissioner of Police Brijesh Singh from boarding a flight to
Kolhapur en route to Miraj; his boarding pass was withdrawn at the
last moment. In no time, BJP workers began shouting slogans outside
Mumbai and Kolhapur airports. Later in the day, Munde left for Miraj
by road. On the way, he addressed party workers at Chembur.
At the BJP headquarters, State unit chief Nitin Gadkari insisted that
the police action was unwarranted as nobody from the Muslim community
had complained. He accused the Democratic Front Government of trying
to create a divide among communities. He questioned the rationale
behind stopping Munde while allowing Minority Affairs Minister Anees
Ahmad to visit the riot-hit town.
Thackeray has appealed to Sena supporters to put up posters of
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj killing Afzal Khan across the state. “The
government is trying to change history,” he roared in party mouthpiece
Saamna. He demanded that the Afzal Khan killing be part of the
proposed memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji off Mumbai’s coast.