As talks began about the temporary structure, or what the Shiv Sainiks call the samadhi of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray being shifted by the state government, Sainiks from various parts of Mumbai and Thane rushed to Shivaji Park to protest.
The Riot Control Police as well as Mumbai police were stationed there since Friday night to keep the situation under control. A crowd of over 1,000 Shiv Sainiks gathered by 11 am on Saturday morning at Shivaji Park and started shouting slogans against the government. Big cut outs and hoardings were also put up near the site where the Sena chief had been cremated. All the hoardings stated that they wouldn’t allow the government to shift the structure at any cost.
On Saturday morning, many senior Sena leaders including Manohar Joshi, MP Sanjay Raut, and MLA Eknath Shinde came to review the spot. Speaking to the media, Sanjay Raut said, “We would once again like to make it clear that the place where Balasaheb was cremated is a sacred place for Sainiks, Marathi manoos and Hindus. The government should not hurt the sentiments of the public by shifting the samadhi. This is not just a samadhi but a Shakti Sthal (place of power and inspiration) to us and we won’t allow the government to shift it, come what may.”
Around 100 to 200 Shiv Sainkis working in two-three shifts guard the site 24/7. After talks began of the structure being shifted, the Shiv Sainiks decided to increase the number of guards. “I know that the government will not dare to shift the samadhi, but if they try, there might be a law and order situation. We respect the law but if the government uses police force to drive us away, then they will have to face opposition,” said a Shiv Sainik from Colaba.
Forty eight year-old Pramila Kale, a househelp from Thane, said, “I cannot tolerate the samadhi of Balasaheb being shifted from here. We left home at 8 am yesterday to reach Shivaji Park to protest. I took a day off from work to come here.” Upendra Parab, shakha pramukh, Devgad Taluka, said, “Rumours suggest that the Sena will occupy the entire ground, which is untrue. Uddhav Thackeray is in talks with the BMC about not moving the samadhi. More than 1,000 people from Thane and South Mumbai have come here to guard the samadhi.”