Bus services suspended in Solapur ahead of VBA rally for reopening of temples

Prakash Ambedkar   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

The Solapur district administration has suspended State Transport (ST) bus services for the next 36 hours, with the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) set to stage an agitation in the temple town of Pandharpur on Monday for the reopening of temples across Maharashtra.

“ST buses will not be plying outside Solapur and buses will not be permitted to enter the district. We have taken this precautionary measure to prevent any damage to property during the protest,” said an official from the Solapur district administration.

Authorities have also stepped up security near the Vitthal-Rukmini Temple complex, where the VBA, along with nearly one lakh devotees, is slated to hold its agitation in the district, which has been seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Devotees and holy men from several other districts like Akola, Nashik, and Ahmednagar are also expected to pour into Pandharpur for the protest over large temples in the State continuing to be shut amid the easing of lockdown measures.

‘Reducing inflow’

Barricades as high as eight to 10 feet have been erected to prevent protesters from storming the temple, which sees lakhs of visitors each year. The administration is hoping the suspension of bus services would reduce the inflow of protesters into the district.

Solapur District Collector Milind Shambharkar said the decision to suspend bus services was taken in view of the massive damage to public property, especially ST buses, in previous agitations held in the district. The administration is also struggling to cope with the rise in COVID-19 cases in the district. More than 19,000 positive cases have been reported so far and over 750 people have succumbed to the novel coronavirus.

The VBA is supporting the Vishwa Warkari Sena’s demand for reopening of all large temples. Earlier, the party had given a call of ‘Chalo Pandharpur’ and demanded that the State government not only open temples but also permit devotees to sing bhajans.

Mr. Ambedkar’s party, which has been opposing restrictions on resuming certain economic activities and reopening of establishments, has said such lockdown measures have wiped out the livelihoods of several people associated with temple activities.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 11:57:49 PM |

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