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Maharashtra: Police Lathi-charged Warkari Pilgrims, Says Opposition; Fadnavis Refutes Claims

The incident occurred when devotees were attempting to enter Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Samadhi Mandir in Alandi town, 22 km from Pune city, during the ceremonial procession which is part of the annual Ashadhi Ekadashi pilgrimage to Pandharpur

Annual pilgrimage of warkaris
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As Warkari devotees scrambled to gain entry to a temple in Pandharpur, Maharashtra police allegedly resorted to lathi charge after some devotees got into an argument with the police during a ceremonial procession in Pune district on Sunday.

The incident occurred when devotees were attempting to enter Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Samadhi Mandir in Alandi town, 22 km from Pune city, during the procession which is part of the annual Ashadhi Ekadashi pilgrimage to Pandharpur.

Police had made elaborate arrangements and held meetings with temple trustees to prevent any untoward incident, said Commissioner of Pimpri Chinchwad, Vinay Kumar Choubey. While the police were sending batches of 75 devotees at a time, a few people breached the barricades and tried to enter the temple, he said.

Refuting the allegations that police lathi-charged the pilgrims, Choubey said, "There was an altercation when police tried to stop them."

Opposition's reaction

The issue took a political turn with opposition NCP and Congress claiming that police lathi-charged the devotees.

“I condemn the (state) government for the incident of lathi-charge on warkaris. This has never happened in so many years. The pilgrimage (to Pandharpur) has been a tradition for the past few centuries. The administration's mismanagement put a blot on this annual celebration. It is anguishing to see the lathi-charge on the warkari community. Those who are at fault should face action,” NCP working president and Lok Sabha member Supriya Sule said.

Meanwhile, in a video posted on Twitter, Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole demanded a high-level inquiry and strict action against the guilty. He said police officials involved in lathi charge should be suspended.

Terming the incident as 'painful', Maharashtra opposition leader Ajit Pawar said, "Such an incident never happened in the history of Pandharpur wari (pilgrimage). This incident could have been avoided by proper planning but it didn't happen. Prima facie, the mismanagement has led to this incident. I condemn the lathicharge by police and the government in strong words," he said in a tweet.

However, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis denied any incidents of lathi charge. “There was no lathi charge on the warkari community," Fadnavis told PTI.

"They broke the barricades and the police tried to stop them, during which some police personnel were injured," he added.

(With inputs from PTI)

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