EVEN THOUGH Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray heaped praises on Lokshahir Amar Sheikh during the annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park on Thursday, it has come to light that earlier this month, the Sena-led BMC had denied permissions to hold the centennial celebrations of Sheikh’s birth anniversary at Shahid Bhagat Singh Grounds in Kalachowkie. This comes as a stark contrast between Thackeray’s words and action.
Thackeray at the Thursday rally cited Sheikh’s contribution as a Muslim towards the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and the welfare of workers to counter allegations of his party’s pro-Hindutva stand and bias against Muslims.
However, in a letter dated October 5 to the programme organisers, Lokshahir Comrade Amar Sheikh Janmshatabdi Samaroh Samiti, the BMC had cited as reason for their reluctance to hold the function, their notice dated December 29, 2014 (Amendment of Section 37A of Maharashtra XXXVII 1966). According to this notice, only those playgrounds, which have traditionally been used for religious functions and public meetings before March 2012, have the approval to be used as venues for similar activities. “Hence, the permission to host a cultural programme to commemorate Amar Sheikh’s birth anniversary at Shahid Bhagat Singh Maidan is denied,” read the BMC letter, a copy of which was reviewed by the The Indian Express.
In response, the organisers pointed out that the same ground had been used in the past for non-sporting activities and sent a letter on October 9 to Snehal Ambekar, the mayor of Mumbai and marked a copy of it to BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta. According to this letter, this was the ground where Lokshahir Amar Sheikh sang powadas during the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and held programmes to create awareness about labour reforms during the Mill Workers’ Movement.
The permission to hold the programme finally came through and the event took place on October 20. “We had to constantly follow-up and were asked by both the F-south ward officer, who was in charge, and the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at the BMC Commissioner’s office who Amar Sheikh is and if he is a national figure,” said Subodh More, a member of the organising committee.
Vishwas Mothe, ward officer of F-south, where the application was submitted and initially refused, and mayor Snehal Ambekar were unavailable for comment despite several attempts.