A 27-year-old man has been booked for allegedly placing a statue of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj at Sambhaji Garden in Pune. Hours after the accused, Ganesh Karle (27), allegedly placed the statue on a platform at the civic garden, police removed it from the spot.
Police said Karle entered the garden at around 3 am and placed the statue, made of plastic, on a platform. A message on a piece of paper, found at the spot, warned that if the statue was removed, ‘there would be consequences in the state.’ Police said Karle had also put up a photo of him and the statue at the spot on social media.
Police are investigating if the incident was an attempt to stir up controversy on the occasion of Shiv Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, which is being celebrated across the state on Tuesday. Sambhaji Maharaj is the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Karle has been booked on charges of public mischief, trespass and disobeying government orders, among others. He has also been booked on charges under the IT Act.
Senior Inspector Bhaskar Jadhav of Deccan Gymkhana police station said, “We removed the statue around 8 am. Karle belongs to a group from Khed. An offence has been registered against him because his act could have led to a law and order situation, specially because the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji is being celebrated. He has not been arrested. We are probing the case further.”
Timing of incident suspect
This is yet another example of how controversies related to historical figures and communal identities surface around elections. While the incident has taken place on Shiv Jayanti, it also comes a day after the BJP and Shiv Sena announced their alliance for both Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
This is not the first time a statue at Sambhaji Garden has been at the midst of a controversy. In January 2017, a group of youths, including members of Sambhaji Brigade, had pulled down a bust of legendary Marathi playwright and poet Ram Ganesh Gadkari at the park.
The Sambhaji Brigade, an outfit named after Sambhaji Maharaj, had registered as a political party barely a month before the incident. Members of the Sambhaji Brigade had claimed that the act of vandalism was carried out as a “protest” against Raj Sanyas, a play based on Chhatrapti Sambhaji’s life written by Gadkari in 1915.
While police said that Karle was not a member of Sambhaji Brigade, office-bearers of the outfit expressed their support towards him.
Incidentally, the Pune Municipal Corporation, which is in charge of the garden, is currently in the process of completing formalities to install a statue of Chhatrapati Sambhaji that has already been built. PMC Garden Superintendent Ashok Ghorpade said, “The PMC has decided to install a bust of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj at Sambhaji Garden. A resolution has been approved by the civic general body meeting in this regard. However, we still need the permission of the district collectorate and the cultural directorate. A committee of the government looks into this.”