The statue has now been moved to a corporation garden
High drama prevailed in Pune on Monday as the row over moving Dadoji Konddeo's statue from the historic monument Lal Mahal turned from bad to ugly within 16 hours. From initial protests and a morcha by the Opposition parties — the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party — the day ended with violence at the general body meeting of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), even as members of the Sambhaji Brigade celebrated the ‘victory.'
Last week, the PMC passed a resolution to move Dadoji Konddeo's statue, and this did not go down well with the Opposition. Historians in the State are divided on whether Dadoji, a Brahmin, was Shivaji's mentor at all. In 2004, American historian James Laine's controversial remark over Dadoji being Shivaji's biological father sparked a row with the Sambhaji Brigade, which is on the forefront of this issue.
At 2 a.m. on Monday, the statue of Dadoji Konddeo, whose status as Maratha King Shivaji's teacher is debated, was moved amid tight security. Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe and 30 other Shiv Sainiks who tried to intervene were detained for a few hours.
The statue, which was a part of the sculpture of Shivaji and his mother Jijamata tiling the soil of Pune with a golden plough, has now been moved to a corporation garden in the city.
Pune Mayor Mohansingh Rajpal, however, denied knowing that the statue was going to be moved secretly. “I was sleeping when I got calls from reporters and that was how I found out,” he said.
In the afternoon, members of the Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the BJP disrupted the House, breaking chairs, glass table tops and microphones. The offices of the ruling Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress were also vandalised. The mob indulged in violence, exchanging blows. The meeting was adjourned for the day.
Talking to journalists after the incident, Mr. Rajpal said: “The protests led by the BJP's Vikas Matkari were a cruel joke on democracy. This is utterly shameful behaviour, which the PMC has witnessed for the first time ever. This has unleashed the monster in them [opposing parties],” he said. He named the erring corporators and stated that a legal investigation will be conducted.
Calling the attack unprecedented, he maintained that his opinion about the issue was unchanged. However, the BJP and the Shiv Sena claimed that their offices on the PMC premises were in turn vandalised by Congress and NCP corporators. The Mayor denied this allegation. Late in the evening, the Sambhaji Brigade office in Pune's Navi Peth area was allegedly vandalised by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine. In turn, the BJP office in Pune's Appa Balwant Chowk area was attacked, allegedly by the Sambhaji Brigade.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackaray has called for a Pune Bandh on Tuesday. The MNS has declared that it will support the bandh.
Ms. Gorhe has appealed to citizens to support the bandh. “The PMC does not take any decision so quickly, then why this? The joint decision to name an expert committee of historians to decide on the issue was not followed. We will not let this injustice happen to Punekars,” she said, speaking to The Hindu.