Statue politics returns to haunt city

Jan 08, 2013, 08:34 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

A controversy has erupted over the presence of Goddess Sarasvati's idol at the PMC's education board main building in Shivajinagar yesterday.

Members of a political party — Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh — are objecting to the idol’s being there and are demanding that it be replaced with a statue of Savitribai Phule, the social reformer who had started the first girls’ school in the city in the 18th century.

The daylong political drama also saw Congress and BJP led youth organisation members later gather at the premise to oppose the removal of the idol. Both party members warned officials of the education board that they would not tolerate the removal of Sarasvati’s idol from the building.

Tight vigil: Policemen were sent to  PMC’s education board’s main  building in Shivajinagar yesterday. Pic/Krunal Gosavi  

Around 80 police personnel from Shivajinagar, Faraskhana and other police stations were deployed at the spot to prevent any untoward situation.

The former chairperson of the education board, and Congress party member Sangita Tiwari had placed Sarasvati’s idol, considered the goddess of knowledge and education, at the premise four years ago.

Three months ago Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh submitted a letter to education board’s chairperson with a demand to remove the idol from the premise immediately.

City president of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, Adv Kiran Kadam, warned that if the education board did not take any action, they would remove the idol in their ‘own way’.

“Being a government office, the education board has no right to place a religious idol in its premise. We expect the education board to remove Sarasvati’s idol immediately,” said Kadam.

“Our demand is clear. Remove Sarasvati and replace it with the statue of Savitribai Phule. Sarasvati is a fictitious goddess, while Savitribai has worked for education and empowerment of women,” said Bharat Shinde, vice-president of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh.

Sangeeta Tiwari said, “Where were they since the last four years? This is a cheap way of creating an issue to garner media attention.” She further added that at every education board school, prayers begin with the Sarasvati’s prayer.

After hearing about the commotion, around 50 members of BJP’s Yuva Morcha gathered at the spot to oppose the agitation. “We live in a democratic country and no one has right to hurt the religious feelings of any community.

We have submitted a letter to the education board’s with a demand to lodge a police complaint against the political outfit,” said Ganesh Ghosh, city president of BJP Yuva Morcha. The Congress party’s city general secretary Nitin Gujrati was also present at the scene with 20 youths to counter the demand for removal.

Chairperson of PMC education board Pradeep Dhumal said that he has sent a letter to city Mayor Vaishali Bankar, since the issue comes under the jurisdiction of the PMC.  

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