Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities don’t want to get their fingers burnt. In the wake of the volatile situation following the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, they have decided to play it safe and not disturb his cremation site in Shivaji Park till December 6, the death anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Lakhs of followers are expected to throng Ambedkar’s memorial Chaityabhoomi, which is close to Shivaji Park, in the coming week.
The BMC has submitted a letter to the police about a possible law and order situation in the run-up to the anniversary. But, at the same time, it is shying away from taking any concrete action, like asking the Thackeray family to remove the structure from the cremation spot, citing the ‘sensitive’ nature of the subject.
It has kept its status report, which was also submitted to the chief secretary, limited to two lines, keeping its intentions under wraps.
“More than five lakh people visit Chaityabhoomi each year to pay tributes to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on his death anniversary. Most of them use Shivaji Park to put up makeshift homes for a couple of days. We don’t want any clash between the two groups [Dalits and Shiv Sainiks] if the crowd from outside tries to venture inside the barricades of Balasaheb’s cremation site. That’s why we have decided to remain silent,” explains a senior civic official.
The BMC has another issue playing on its mind. It fears that if the makeshift structure on the cremation site is allowed to stay at Shivaji Park for too long, it will set a precedent. Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athavale is expected to visit Shivaji Park on December 6 to pay tribute to Thackeray to prevent any clash between Dalits and Sainiks.
Sainiks to guard cremation site
Refusing to pin hopes on police protection, higher-ups in Shiv Sena have instructed Sainiks to guard the memorial 24X7, even on December 6.
“Each year, lakhs of people stay put at Shivaji Park as they wish, but this year, we will not allow them near the cremation spot. Our Sainiks will ensure that the followers don’t try to jump the barricade. They will be kept several meters away. However, those who wish for a darshan of the site will be managed by us. Sainiks will lead them in, in a queue,” says a senior Sena leader.