The body of an octogenarian spiritual leader from Kharda in neighbouring Ahmednagar district was in Sassoon hospital morgue here for more than three days following a dispute among followers over the place for the final rites, which was to be turned into samadhi (memorial).
Sitarambaba Undegaokar who spent his life in Ahmednagar and Osmanabad districts died in a private hospital in Pune on Thursday night. His body was handed over to Sassoon hospital after rival groups fought over the place of cremation.
The deadlock ended on Monday evening after a local court dismissed a petition by one of the groups to grant them possession of the body. Police force was deployed at Sassoon hospital, and Shivajinagar court where Sitarambaba followers turned out in large numbers.
While some followers demanded that final rites be carried out at Kharda, where Sitarambaba claimed to have spent active years of his life, others pressed for Undegaon in Osmanabad where he is believed to have lived during his early days. The villages are within 20 kilometre of each other.
In Kharda, Undegaon and nearby areas, his followers tried to block roads to protest the delay in getting possession of the body of their master.
“It is norm that usually the latest will is considered legally viable. However, we could not hand over the body to Kharda followers, as the other group had moved court and the case was pending. After the court threw away the petition by Undegaon followers, we handed over the body to Kharda followers,” said S S Anirudha, a senior police inspector.
The court of Judicial Magistrate (First Class) disposed of the application by Shivdas Tagad and others from Undergaon observing it did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the petition. Sitarambaba had made two wills.
As per an earlier will, a group of followers in Undegaon were made heirs while another will mentioned followers from Kharda should inherit the property and possessions.
Dadasaheb Shere, village head of Undegaon told Newsline that Sitarambaba had wanted a samadhi built in his village.
“As desired by Sitarambaba, we completed construction of a temple in our village by end of 2011. The temple was supposed to house his samadhi,” he said.