Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Sunday he was cancelling his upcoming visit to a temple in Pandharpur after Maratha outfits demanding reservations in government jobs threatened to disrupt the event. The visit was scheduled on Monday.
“Police have intercepted some messages, like ‘will release snakes among devotees’, ‘could create a situation that would lead to stampede’, among others,” Fadnavis told reporters, according to PTI. “Such kind of plans are being worked out and it is highly disappointing.”
He said pro-reservation organisations were instigating the Maratha community. “If throwing stones at me can get the reservation for Maratha community, then I am ready for it,” he said. “Nobody can stop me from performing the puja. I have Z-plus level police protection. I can do it under police protection but then I fear that lives of devotees could be in danger and hence I have cancelled my visit.”
The state’s chief minister offers prayers at the temple in Solapur district every year on the occasion of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’. Nearly 10 lakh people visit the temple on the occasion annually. Fadnavis said he had been visiting the temple for three years.
On the demand for reservations for the Maratha community, the chief minister reiterated that the Bombay High Court would take the decision. “We will not harm the future of Maratha youths,” Fadnavis said.
On Thursday, Fadnavis had urged members of the Maratha community to avoid inconveniencing devotees at the Pandharpur temple after some leaders threatened to protest. Apart from reservations in government jobs and education, the Marathas have also been demanding a revision in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and financial aid to economically backward students.
The community had held 58 large silent marches in several parts of Maharashtra between August 9, 2016, to August 9, 2017, reported Hindustan Times.
The community claims that nothing concrete has been done after numerous assurances from the chief minister himself. On Thursday, Fadnavis said in the Maharashtra Assembly that the state government would provide 16% quota for Maratha candidates in 72,000 jobs if the Bombay High Court agreed to the move. In 2014, the court had stayed the implementation of reservations for the community, a decision of the former Congress-NCP alliance government.