With the Shiv Sena blowing hot and cold on a memorial for its departed leader Bal Thackeray, residents of Shivaji Park are gearing up for a fresh round of battle to preserve the sanctity of the 28- acre playground they have fought hard to protect.
Shivaji Park lovers thought they had scored a major victory after the Bombay high court declared it a silence zone in 2010, but the civic corporation permitted the last rites to be performed there on Mr Thackeray last Sunday and now a memorial at the very place is a looming possibility.
However, on Tuesday evening Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray issued a statement saying he didn’t want a controversy over the memorial. He said the family was passing through grief and this was not a time to squabble over memorials.
Mr Thackeray added that 25 lakh people had come to attend his father’s funeral and they were disciplined. He said the decision for the memorial would also be taken by loyal Sainiks and he was not going to come between the Shiv Sena pramukh(Bal Thackeray) and his followers.
After Mr Thackeray’s demise on November 17, the demand for a memorial at Shivaji Park came from a senior party leader Manohar Joshi. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) too has supported it. Shivaji Park is the birth place of the Shiv Sena in 1966 and has a sentimental place for the party with annual Dussehra rallies being held there without fail.
The high court’s order making the park a silence zone came on May 5, 2010 after a public interest litigation in 2009 filed by Walkers Ecological Movement(WECOM). Ashok Rawat, a WECOM trustee told The Hindu on Tuesday that the trust was not opposed to a public memorial. After all Mr Thackeray was a charismatic leader, he said. The question was larger, that of encroaching on a public playground. “We are opposed to such memorials on the playground and our course of action will depend on what the government wants to do,” he said.