People living in the Shivaji Park area are divided whether or not there should be a memorial to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray constructed on the ground.
While some are okay with a statue/structure on the ground’s periphery, others are dead against any memorial at the spot where he was cremated, which is close to a Shivaji statue and some cricket pitches.
Many want the Sena to specify where exactly they are looking to build a memorial.
“The Sena demand is natural... Thackeray used to live in the Dadar area and he had launched the Sena from this ground,” said Amar Vaidya, secretary of Young Maharashtra Cricket Club that trains budding cricketers. Sandeep Patil, chairman of the national selection committee, is a product of this club.
Shivaji Park has produced several cricketers — most prominent being Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. The ground has eight cricket pitches held by various clubs and government bodies.
“If they have a statue like that of Meenatai [Thackeray’s wife], it will not be a problem as it will not obstruct sporting activities,” Kalpana Murkar, daughter of Ramakant Achrekar — Tendulkar’s coach and in charge of Kamath Memorial Cricket Club — said. Murkar stays right opposite the ground.
Those who do not want any memorial whatsoever have their own arguments. “These days, having a memorial is more a power play,” said Shirkant Chincharkar, who stays in one of the buildings surrounding the ground. “Once you allow a memorial, it will create a precedent. Tomorrow, 10 other communities will make similar demands. And soon the ground will be filled with memorials.
“The Ganpati temple near the Shivaji statue has grown over the years. And then we have tens of thousands of people who arrive every year on December 6, Babasaheb Ambedkar’s death anniversary, to pay tribute.
“This should act as a reminder of problems we might face in the future if a memorial were to come up. It would be better to build something like Delhi’s Rajghat where all memorials can come up.” Chincharkar said he was “brave enough” to speak his mind.
Sport lovers do not want anything that would affect sporting activities on the ground. “There are pitches... Tomorrow if a ball were to hit the memorial, it will create plenty of problems. The Sena can instead build a memorial on the periphery,” said Sunil Patil, secretary of Mahim Juvenile Sports Club.
Another resident said nothing should come up that would obstruct sports. “The ground is meant for children to play. And Balasaheb himself was fond of cricket,” said Neeraj Sonawane.
Ashok Rawat, member of Wecom Trust whose PIL ensured Shivaji Park remained a silence zone, said, “We are against any more memorials. In fact, a lot of people feel it would be wrong to have a memorial to Balasaheb since the park is named after Shivaji and there is a memorial to him there.”
And then there are some like Aruna Adhav who feel a memorial should come up at the spot Thackeray was cremated.