The bandh in Shirdi was called off on Sunday evening after local residents said they will decide their next course of action after meeting Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Monday. The decision to call off the bandh was taken at a gram sabha meeting called by local residents on Sunday evening.
Most commercial establishments and transport services remained shut since Saturday midnight in response to the bandh called over a controversy over the birthplace of Sai Baba. With the controversy taking a political hue, delegations from both Shirdi and Pathri, who are making divergent claims over the origins of Sai Baba, are set to meet Thackeray.
While establishments and transport services in Shirdi and 25 adjoining villages remained shut, the temple remained open, with officials claiming over 30,000 devotees visiting the temple on Sunday. “Over 32,000 devotees had darshan. We made adequate arrangements including providing food and transportation to the visiting pilgrims,” Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust CEO D M Muglikar said.
The row between Shirdi, located in Ahmednagar, and Pathri in Parbhani district has been simmering for quite some time over claims of where Sai Baba was born.
While residents of Shirdi claim there is no concrete proof of his origins, residents of Pathri claim they have proof to show the Sai Baba was born in their town. The issue first came into prominence in 2017 when President Ramnath Kovind made a statement that Pathri was the place where Sai Baba was born.
The controversy was fuelled further after Thackeray, soon after taking over the reins of the state, promised to allot funds of up to Rs 100 crore for Pathri, which he described as a town where Sai Baba was born. The statement caused consternation among residents of Shirdi who believed it was an endorsement by the government of Pathri’s claims as Sai Baba’s birthplace. Local villagers subsequently decided to hold a protest by calling a bandh from Sunday.
“We will meet Thackeray in Mumbai on Monday. We will show him all the documents we have to substantiate our claims,” Muglikar said.
Meanwhile, residents of Pathri have claimed they have 29 documentary proof to show Sai Baba was born in their town. “While Shirdi is Sai Baba’s ‘karmabhoomi’, Pathri is the ‘janmabhoomi’ and both these places have their own importance,” NCP leader from Pathri Durrani Abdullah Khan had said. He said the opposition to Pathri was based on the unfounded fear that if acknowledged as the place where Sai Baba was born the importance of Shirdi will fade.
Residents of Shirdi have been demanding that the CM withdraw his official statement where he described Pathri as Sai Baba’s birthplace.
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