The glorious tradition of Ganeshotsav was started by national leader Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak to awaken the masses during British rule, but the conduct of the festival now seems to be in the hands of a bunch of goons. Ganesh mandals are now even stooping to the level of issuing threats to newspapers for publishing reports on violations of the Supreme Court directive that states not more than a third of the road space should be occupied by pandals.
The president of a mandal from Cantonment has threatened to ransack the MiD DAY office in Pune if it does not publish an apology for a report carried on September 27 on the violation of the apex court directive by mandals celebrating Ganeshotsav in the city.
The Pune MiD DAY report had highlighted the issue of constant traffic jams in the city due to large pandals occupying more than 70 per cent of the road space. For representational purposes, the MiD DAY report carried a few pictures without naming any mandal. The pictures that highlighted the problem included the Dastur Meher Road Ganeshotsav Mandal in Cantonment.
A person who claimed to be the president of this mandal, Mahesh Ashok Pawar, called this newspaper’s office and threatened to bring a mob of 500 supporters of his and ransack the premises. Pawar is the son of a sitting member of the Pune Cantonment Board, Sangita Pawar of the Congress.
The calls started on Sunday and continued till yesterday. In the last call received by the MiD DAY office, Pawar used abusive language while speaking to several reporters, including female journalists, and repeated his threat to ransack the office.
When one of the reporters asked him to send a letter to the newspaper office voicing his concerns, he claimed he did not know how letters were written.
When another reporter asked him to come over to the office to discuss the matter, he said that he would not come alone but would bring 500 supporters and that whatever damage would be done to the office would not be his responsibility. He called repeatedly, saying he wanted to talk to the reporter who had written the story “in his own manner”.
When these demands of Pawar were not entertained, he said he would teach a lesson to the staff of MiD DAY.
The MiD DAY reporter lodged an FIR at the Charbavadi police chowky and the police applied Section 507 of the IPC in the case for threatening and using abusive language.
When Congress MLA from Cantonment Ramesh Bagawe was informed about the threats, he came out in support of the newspaper and said such acts would not be tolerated.
Bagawe said he would back the newspaper if it decided to take legal action. He claimed that the person in question was not associated with the party. He also said that because of similar acts of a few Congress members of the PCB he had stopped attending meetings with them. “A few of them are not interested in party work and are engaged in doing things demeaning to the party image,” Bagawe said.
Congress state president Manikrao Thakare condemned the act of issuing threats to the media and said rules were the same for everyone, whether they were from the Congress or not. “All mandals are expected to abide by the rules and the party will not tolerate such acts,” he said.
Thakare assured MiD DAY that he would initiate an inquiry into the matter and would tell the district Congress president to conduct the investigation.