Mumbai Up in Arms Over Rs 3,600 Cr Shivaji Memorial in Arabian Sea
Members of the protesting Koli community were detained, while fishing associations were served notices.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a one-day visit to Maharashtra, during which he will lay the foundation stone for the grand memorial of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and inaugurate the metro rail projects in Mumbai and Pune.
The state government is planning to build a mega memorial for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea, off the Mumbai coast. The main feature of the Shivaji memorial, slated to cost Rs 3,600 crore, will be a 192-metre-tall statue of the iconic Maratha king. The site is a rocky outcrop, roughly 1.5 km from the Raj Bhavan shore.
The project has garnered stiff opposition from the city’s fishing community and environmentalists, who are of the opinion that it will affect marine life and ecology of the Arabian Sea.
The Koli fishing community has planned a sea rally on Saturday. Fisherwomen will form a human chain along the coast while 5,000 fishing boats will hoist black flags to protest the memorial.
Police crackdowns on Friday, however, are making it virtually impossible for the protests to go ahead as scheduled. Around 150 members of the Koli community, who participated in a motorcycle rally in Colaba, were detained, while various fishermen’s associations were served notices ordering them to refrain from joining in the protest.
Speaking to Scroll, Mahesh Tandel, Mumbai President of the Macchimar Sangathan said:
We are still ready to protest, but there is a lot of fear in the community because the police is not allowing groups of more than five people to even step out of our colony alone. I have never seen so much police and coast guard security bandobast in our area.
Apart from the inevitable damage to the environment and the livelihood of the fishing community, the cost of the project – an ostentatious Rs 3,600 crore – has not gone down well with many in the city.
A Change.org petition addressed to PM Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis against the government’s plan to build the memorial garnered over 25,000 supporters until Saturday afternoon.
Some see the move as PM Modi’s effort to woo members of the Maratha community in the wake of their agitation for reservation under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category.
However, if the PM is trying to court the Maratha vote bank, symbolic gestures, however ostentatious, may not cut it. As an earlier report on The Quint observed, the Maratha protesters feel that their youth have missed out on the advantages of education and liberalisation. They are no longer satisfied with resting on the laurels of their ancestors and Shivaji, while members of other communities find decent jobs and comparative economic success.
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