The cremation of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park has evoked mixed reactions from residents and activists.
While some believe that governing agencies have set a wrong precedent by permitting the final rites to be performed on the ground used mostly for sports, others said the tallest leader of the state deserved a grand farewell at the open space, considering his contribution to the growth of the city and the state.
A Dadar resident, who asked not to be named, said: “Considering Thackeray’s love for the ground, he himself would not have liked it to be used for the said purpose.” The resident blamed the municipal corporation and the state government for setting a wrong precedent.
“With due respect to the late Sena chief, similar requests for permission may come up,” said another resident of Shivaji Park. “Many youngsters play at the ground. It should be used only for that purpose.”
Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s cremation at Shivaji Park makes him the second personality whose final rites have been performed at an open space. The other was Bal Gangadhar Tilak whose funeral was held at Girgaum Chowpatty in August 1920.
Activists from the city expressed surprise that the government had considered the request as a special case. “They could’ve considered the crematorium located near the ground,” said an activist based in Andheri.
Ghatkopar resident Ashish Mehta though said the Shiv Sena leader deserved a special farewell. “His contribution to the state’s growth has been immense. So, what’s wrong in permitting the ritual on the ground as a mark of respect?” said Mehta, adding that considering Thackeray’s wide reach in the public domain, people from across party lines and strata were expected to turn up at the funeral. “Would any crematorium in the city be able to accommodate such a large crowd?” he asked.
Sena leader Anil Desai said that the party would ensure that a memorial for Bal Thackeray is constructed at Shivaji Park. “Considering that Balasaheb was a national leader, and the fact that the state is mourning his death is testimony of his stature. So, a memorial must be built and we will seek whatever permissions may be required for this,” said Desai.