Sai Baba row: Pathri rejects Uddhav Thackeray's development deal

Updated: Jan 21, 2020, 16:20 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Residents reject Uddhav Thackeray's explanation that Rs 100-crore grant is only for improving infra; want an expert panel to decide Sai Baba's birthplace

CM Uddhav Thackeray has advised both Shirdi and Pathri residents to stop disputing Sai Baba's birthplace. File pic
CM Uddhav Thackeray has advised both Shirdi and Pathri residents to stop disputing Sai Baba's birthplace. File pic

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's efforts to end a dispute over Sai Baba's birthplace has come to naught because the Pathri temple trustees want him to appoint a research team to establish that Sai Baba was indeed born there. They refused to accept a compromise deal offered on Monday.

Shirdi and Pathri are engaged in a row ever since the latter was sanctioned Rs 100 crore by the government for infrastructure development.

On Monday, Thackeray convinced the trustees of Shirdi temple, which millions of devotees visit every year, that an underdeveloped Pathri would be given a financial grant of Rs 100 crore, not as the government's endorsement that Sai Baba was born there. He said Pathri needed better infrastructure because it was a religious destination also thronged by lakhs of people every year.

The people of Shirdi have happily accepted the CM's explanation, but, Pathri has refused to budge. "Why should there be a dispute? We demanded the money for our town's development only because Sai Baba was born here. We had submitted a proposal as a birthplace and not for anything else," said a trustee of Pathri temple, Babajani Durrani. The former NCP legislator said Pathri representatives were not invited to the Monday meeting that the CM and senior ministers had with the residents and politicians from Shirdi.

"We will meet on Tuesday in Pathri to decide our next move. We want the CM to form a committee of experts to research historical facts and decide where Sai Baba was born. We have evidence that could be produced before experts. A committee of experts was appointed by the former CM, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, to decide the birth date of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The government celebrates Shivaji Maharaj's birthday on that day," he said from Pathri.

Following an intensified row, Shirdi had called for a bandh on Sunday while Pathri residents retaliated with a strong rebuttal.

When the arguments by bickering residents and trustees of the Shirdi and Pathri temples reached the CMO on Monday, Thackeray asked the Shirdi representatives whether they opposed the development of Pathri and advised both parties to stop disputing Sai Baba's birthplace. He said the grant was approved as the state's policy for developing places of worship of various religions.

Shirdi MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil told the meeting that the government should not hold any position on the birthplace of Sai Baba. At the CM's meeting, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and CEO of Shirdi Temple Trust Deepak Muglikar were present.

About Pathri

Pathri is 260 km away from Shirdi and many believers visit both places, but find the former lacking in facilities that the latter enjoys. Shirdi has an airport, decent hotels, better road and rail connectivity and a rich temple trust that the state controls. Pathri town in Parbhani district has long contended that the town is the true birthplace of Sai Baba, a claim hotly denied by Shirdi. It has repeatedly asked the government to develop the town along the lines of other religious tourism destinations.

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