The controversy over the state government’s decision to honour Shiv Shahir Babasaheb Purandare with Maharashtra Bhushan award continues to simmer. While the veteran historian has preferred not to comment on the charges of distorting history levelled against him, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has called the controversy “meaningless”.
In a front page article in Sena mouthpiece Saamana, Uddhav said, “I congratulate Shiv Shahir for being chosen for Maharashtra Bhushan award…Though belated, the Maharashtra government has finally honoured Babasaheb for which the government also deserves compliments.”
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Uddhav said the attempt to give the award a caste colour and generate controversy was unfortunate. “After Lokmanya Tilak, Shiv Shahir has taken Shivajiraje across the world and this he did with utmost loyalty. Shivcharitra was and is his priority. Instead of squabbling over whether Purandare is a historian or not, the work that he has done is more important. His ‘Jaanta Raja’ has taken Shivaji Maharaj across the globe. Next month, ‘Jaanta Raja’ will be staged in London and those opposing Purandare should bear this in mind,” said the article.
When approached for his reaction to the Sambhaji Brigade opposing the award announced for him, Purandare refused to comment. Sambhaji Brigade members, who have threatened to gherao ministers and MLAs to question them as to why the government picked someone who “distorted history” and “presented Shivaji in an incorrect way”, on Wednesday said their agitation had already begun. “Today, our members gheraoed an MLA in Kolhapur and in two days our agitation will begin in a big way across Maharashtra,” said Santosh Shinde, president of Sambhaji Brigade’s Pune unit.
When asked whether they would agitate outside Purandare’s residence, Shinde said they had no intention to harm him. “We want him to remove the objectionable paragraphs from his books… certain words and sentences are affront to Chhatrapati Shivaji and give an incorrect picture of history. If they are not removed, the future generations will not get the appropriate image of the great king that Shivaji was.” He added the controversy would end if Purandare apologised and withdrew the objectionable comments from his book.