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Shirdi stir called off as CM convenes meeting

Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, too, said the state government would come up with a solution to peacefully resolve the issue.

Updated: Jan 19, 2020 23:39 IST

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times Pune

On an average, Shirdi, around 248 kilometres from state capital Mumbai, witnesses a footfall of more than 30,000 people on the weekends

The temple town of Shirdi was shut down on Sunday after locals, led by a BJP legislator, called a bandh to protest against Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray calling Pathri area in Marathwada the birthplace of Saibaba – a claim contested by many in Shirdi where the 19th century saint spent a large part of his life.

Thackeray has called a meeting with representatives from both Shirdi and Pathri on Monday. “I am confident that when both sides will meet the CM, the issue will be resolved amicably,” said deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, too, said the state government would come up with a solution to peacefully resolve the issue.

Late in the evening, locals called off the bandh, saying they would wait for the outcome of the meeting with the CM. “We have temporarily called off our bandh and private establishments will restart operating from tomorrow (Monday). This is to ensure that devotees are not inconvenienced in any way. If no desirable decision is taken in the meeting with the CM, locals will decide on the next course of action,” said protest leader Kailash Tope, a former trustee of Shirdi’s famed Saibaba temple.



In Shirdi, while shops and eateries remained closed and vehicles stayed off the roads, the temple was open and devotees continued to offer their prayers, even though their numbers noticed a slight dip, said an official from the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, which manages the temple which is believed to house the remains of the saint.

The shutdown was also observed in at least 25 villages around Shirdi.

On an average, Shirdi, around 248 kilometres from state capital Mumbai, witnesses a footfall of more than 30,000 people on the weekends, said the official.

On January 13, Thackeray had announced a development fund of Rs 100 crore for Pathri, nearly 273 kms away from Shirdi in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, while terming it the birthplace of Saibaba.

In response, the residents of Shirdi, led by legislator Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), called a meeting on Saturday where they announced the shutdown and called for Thackeray to retract his statement.

They claimed that the birthplace of the famed saint was not known.

Shiv Sena MP from Shirdi, Sadashiv Lokhande, also extended his support to the bandh, saying he will speak to the CM. “I am a Sai devotee first and an MP later. I support this protest.”

Maharashtra cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who visited the Shirdi temple, said, “Nobody should create controversy over an issue such as this. Even Saibaba would not have liked it.”

In Pathri, locals gathered at the local Saibaba temple in large numbers and stressed that the town in Parbhani district was the birthplace of Saibaba and that the chief minister was right in allocating funds for its development.

Saibaba, a prominent spiritual figure, is equally revered by Hindus and Muslims.

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