Mandals allege police mismanaged the event and broke tradition by allowing other mandals to proceed ahead of the three major ones — Bhau Rangari, Mandai and Dagdusheth; cops, on the other hand, blame mandals for hiring dhol pathak
A lack of discipline displayed by the police and various Ganpati mandals in the city during visarjan stretched the total time taken for the immersion to a record 29 hours and 12 minutes between Monday and Tuesday.
LONG ROAD: The procession for the Akhil Mandai Ganesh Mandal at Belbaug chowk. Members of this mandal alleged that the policemen handling the visarjan were inexperienced. Pic/Shashank Sane
Not only were there several delays and conflicts during the prolonged procession, there was also a major break in tradition this year with the police unwittingly changing the customary sequence of immersions.
Song and dance: Though the police had expressly forbidden mandals to invite dhol-tasha troupes during the visarjan procession, several mandals did so anyway. Pic/Shashank Sane
The delay began early, as the manache Ganpatis took nine hours for visarjan at the very beginning of Monday. According to custom, the morning slot is set aside for the five most prestigious Ganpati mandals in the city.
The first manache Ganpati, Kasba Ganesh Mandal entered the procession at 10.30 am on Monday and the last manache mandal, Kesari Wada, finished at 7.10 pm.
After this, delays kept piling up, until the procession finally ended at 3.42 pm yesterday, with the Trimurti Ganesh Mandal performing visarjan at the Panchaleshwar ghat on the Mutha river.
Throughout, the mandals and police kept blaming each other instead of working together.
Mandal workers alleged that the police officials deployed for immersion were new and were neither aware of how to manage the procession, nor of the traditional sequence of mandals entering Laxmi Road through Belbaug Chowk for visarjan.
Every year, the manache Ganpatis are the first to pass Laxmi Road before heading to the ghats for immersion. The late afternoon and evening slots are reserved for certain other mandals, the last of which is Babugenu Mandal, which is then followed by three eminent mandals — Bhau Rangari, Akhil Mandai and Dagdusheth Halwai.
Break from tradition
However this year, after Babugenu crossed the chowk, instead of Bhau Rangari, the police allowed other mandals to follow, instantly causing chaos. The three major mandals took seven hours in the procession, eventually completing visarjan the next morning, around 7.10 am.
Not only did the police’s indifference lead to this break in tradition, mandals have complained that the police could not even ensure smooth movement in the procession this year.
“Unlike in the past, there is barely any momentum in the immersion procession. Normally the police ensures that mandals and dhol-tasha pathaks keep a steady pace and a consistent gap between each other so that they do not take too much time. This year, there was absolutely no police presence on Laxmi Road,” said the president of one of the mandals, which had to wait for several hours for its chance.
Although Police Commissioner Satish Mathur himself was overseeing the situation at Belbaug Chowk, the police force was not able to ensure smooth movement, leading to huge gaps between mandals, leading to further delays. When he was asked about the efficiency of the police during visarjan, Commissioner Mathur refused to comment.
The police meanwhile blamed the mandals for not following instructions. Even though the police had expressly forbidden mandals from inviting dhol-tasha pathaks to the procession, many did end up calling troupes to perform, creating hold-ups for the rest of the procession.
The Akhil Mandai Mandal was amongst those that had invited dhol-tasha groups, and witnessed a major conflict because of this.
At Nimbalkar Talim Chowk, Mandai’s dhol-tasha pathak was starting to move ahead, while the mandal followed behind. But at Bajirao Road, the police began pushing in another mandal between the two halves. Angry Mandai karyakartas then held up procession for almost an hour as they argued with the police.
“How can they allow any other mandal to push into the middle of our group on Laxmi road? This is unacceptable. The police officials who are handling this year’s procession are inexperienced and do not even care enough to follow the traditions the city has followed for years,” said Pratap Pardeshi, a senior member associated with Akhil Mandai Mandal.
This reporter witnessed another heated moment on Laxmi Road around 2.30 am on Tuesday, when four to five members of Shreeram dhol-tasha pathak rushed into a crowd of devotees waiting for Dagdusheth Ganpati to pass. The dhol-tasha performers then manhandled a few youths in the crowd, alleging they had heard them use abusive language.
While the altercation led to a fair bit of panic in the crowd, neither the dhol-tasha pathak, nor Bhau Rangari Mandal (which had invited the pathak) arrived at the scene to resolve the issue.
The number of mandals that took part in the immersion procession on Monday and Tuesday