Maharashtra Polls: Ajit Pawar's wife heckled by villagers in Baramati

Former Dy CM Ajit Pawar’s wife, Sunetra, was forced to leave Dhekalwadi village in Baramati yesterday, after villagers accosted her and began shouting slogans against the party

In a shocking incident yesterday, former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s wife, Sunetra, was heckled by villagers during a visit to Dhekalwadi village in Baramati, well-known as the home ground of the Pawar family and the NCP. Sunetra was in the village to support her husband’s election campaign, but her visit was cut short when villagers began shouting anti-NCP slogans, forcing her to leave immediately.

Villagers confronted and questioned a visibly discomfited Sunetra Pawar in Dhekalwadi, Baramati, yesterday

Baramati tehsil and the Pawar family (NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar and MP Supriya Sule) have long been thought to go hand in hand, and local citizens had faithfully elected the family and the NCP to power for the past 47 years. Which is why, it is unthinkable that a Pawar could meet with such hostile reception there.

After NCP workers allegedly beat up the group, the villagers began to protest against the party, chanting anti-NCP slogans
After NCP workers allegedly beat up the group, the villagers began to protest against the party, chanting anti-NCP slogans

Rashtriya Samaj Party leader, Kishor Masal, who witnessed the incident, said, “As soon as she entered the village, around fifty youths blocked her way and asked her why local problems had not been solved by the NCP leaders. The youths also shared their grievance that NCP office bearers did not allow them to meet Ajit Pawar, who they thought could solve their problems,” Masal said.

Once the group began questioning her, a few more joined in and asked her why the NCP did not try to help the Dhangar (shepherd) community. They asked her why none of the party’s leaders had visited them when they were on a hunger strike in
Pune a few months ago, demanding reservation for the community.

“When Pawar (Sunetra) couldn’t reply to their questions, the NCP workers who were accompanying her started abusing and beating the villagers. The villagers then began shouting slogans against the party,” said Masal, adding that instead of taking action against the party workers, the police arrested one of the protestors.

Masal said that the villagers had not attacked or hurt Sunetra in any way, except to ask her questions and protest against the party. “Pawar was not manhandled, and she left the spot as soon as the villagers started questioning her,” Masal told mid-day.

The other side

NCP district president Jalinder Kamthe said that it was not wrong of the villagers to share their grievances, but maintained that they should have done so in a peaceful manner. “It was not right to behave like that with a woman, especially when she had gone to visit the villagers and to listen to their problems. If they would have shared the issues in a peaceful manner, vahini (respectful form of address, meaning sister-in-law) would have listened to them,” he added.

Who are the Dhangars?
The Dhangar community hails from a history of shepherding, and are currently socially, educationally, economically and politically backward. The community has already been provided reservation in several other states in the country, but are yet to find adequate representation and support in Maharashtra. A PIL was filed in Bombay High Court, seeking reservation for them. There are around three lakh Dhangar voters in Baramati, who have been also demanding reservation in jobs, education, etc.  The community began to get more aggressive about the demand when the state recently provide reservation to the Maratha community, but failed to notice them. A month ago, the community held a protest in Pune for the same, but were neither visited nor supported by NCP leaders who rule in their native Baramati.

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