Ahead of a meeting convened by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, residents of Shirdi town, famous for its grand Sai Baba Temple, called off their indefinite shutdown late on Sunday. Sunday's shutdown had supports of local Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) MP Sujay Vikhe-Patil and other local organisations.
The controversial decision by the CM Uddhav Thackeray to shift the birthplace of Sai Baba to Pathri town in Parbhani district had sparked off a row which led to the indefinite bandh call by the residents of temple town. On Sunday, all shops were closed as part of the bandh call.
Late on Sunday the villagers decided to withdraw the bandh in view of the meeting with the Chief Minister. The town with a population of around 37,000, plus around two dozen villages participated in the bandh. All shops and commercial establishments, hotels and restaurants, remained shut from midnight.
However, the Sai Baba Samadhi Temple functioned as usual, with regular poojas and aartis performed as per schedules, the prasadalaya serving food and prasad to the pilgrims who thronged there for the weekend darshan, besides the hospital, hostels, etc worked as normal, said a spokesperson for the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust (SSST) Trust which manages the temple.
The protesters had earlier spurned a call by Chief Minister Thackeray and other leaders of the ruling Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress to call off the bandh, and threatened to continue till their demand is met.
The matter snowballed after Thackeray, who last week visited Pathri, termed it as the 'birthplace' of Sai Baba and announced a Rs 100-crore grant to develop the temple and surrounding areas on the lines of Shirdi, where Sai Baba had spent his life of preaching and teaching till he took 'Samadhi' in October 1918.
BJP leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil informed media persons that the people of Shirdi have no objections if funds are sanctioned for Pathri's development but had reservations to according it the status of "Sai Baba birthplace". Taking cognizance of the Shirdi citizens' strong sentiments, Thackeray has convened a meeting in Mumbai on Monday to resolve the sensitive subject. Earlier, hundreds of Shirdi people took out a procession in the morning and evening carrying banner and placards with photos of Sai Baba, raised slogans and staged protests at various locations, sang bhajans and religious songs extolling Sai Baba.
NCP Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who prayed at the Shirdi Temple on Sunday, said that the shutdown will not resolve the dispute, calling for negotiations without politicising the issue. MLC and former MLA from Pathri, Durrani Khan said that there are enough historical evidences available to prove that Sai Baba was born in Pathri, and his statement was echoed by NCP Minister Dhananjay Munde.
Union Minister of State Ramdas Athawale said that the protests and shutdown cannot solve the issue and the row must be solved with discussions.