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Watch: Pune Police Deny Lathicharge on Pandharpur Pilgrims; Oppn Demands Probe

The scuffle broke out after the police allegedly attempted to stop overcrowding inside the temple in Pune's Alandi.

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Politics peaked in Maharashtra on Monday, 12 June, a day after a scuffle broke out between the warkaris (pilgrims) and the police during the annual yatra to Pandharpur.

The scuffle broke out after the police allegedly attempted to stop overcrowding inside the Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj temple in Pune's Alandi where the procession of the palanquins carrying the revered footwear of Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj was slated to start for Pandharpur.

Those involved in the scuffle were reportedly members of several groups including Warkari Shikshan Sanstha, an organisation that trains people to join the sect.

The scuffle broke out after the police allegedly attempted to stop overcrowding inside the temple in Pune's Alandi.
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What the police said: The Pimpri Chinchwad police issued a statement to claim that the police did not resort to lathicharge on the warkaris.

"Like every year, there are 56 palkhis of honour. There was a stampede last year and some women were also injured. So this year, following meetings with authorities, a decision was taken to admit only 75 people associated with each palkhi to avoid a situation like last year, and a declaration regarding the same was also done. However, some youth were forcibly trying to enter. The temple authorities tried to pacify them but they did not budge. They tried to breach the barricades and enter the premises," Pimpri Chinchwad police commissioner Vinoy Kumar Choubey said in the statement.

"There was a minor scuffle after the police tried to stop them. There was no lathicharge or use of force against anybody. The claims of lathicharge are false. All warkaris are coordinating with the police. I urge not to malign the traditionally significant event of Maharashtra," he said.
The scuffle broke out after the police allegedly attempted to stop overcrowding inside the temple in Pune's Alandi.

What Warkaris said: Speaking to Marathi daily Loksatta, Vishal Raosaheb Patil, a member of the Jog Maharaj Sanstha said that they were not being allowed to enter the premises and some of them were taken away by the police and roughed up.

"They allow people inside every year. That is all we wanted. Four of us were roughed up by 20 policemen. They took us in a house and beat us," Patil alleged.

What the Maharashtra government said: Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra deputy CM and home minister reiterated that the decision to allow only 75 people from each palkhi was taken to avoid a mishap like last year.

"There were some youth who were unhappy with the decision and wanted to forcibly enter. Around 400-500 of them tried to break the barricades. Some policemen were also injured. If you see the videos, you cannot see any lathicharge. They were only trying to stop them," he said.

The scuffle broke out after the police allegedly attempted to stop overcrowding inside the temple in Pune's Alandi.
"We have taken the incident seriously. There are some media channels who are reporting sensibly but some are claiming lathicharge. They should not claim anything which might instigate people. I also urge some political parties to not politicise the matter as the safety of the warkaris is of utmost priority," he added.

"Our government was not in power last year but a stampede took place. We did not politicise it. We learned from it and came up with better arrangements this year," Fadnavis said.

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What Opposition parties said: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar took to Twittter to say that the incident took place due to poor management.

"The incident of lathicharge on warkari brothers during the departure ceremony of saint Dnyaneshwar's procession from Alandi is painful. This has never happened in the history of the Pandharpur pilgrimage which is the glory of the saintly and devotional tradition of Maharashtra. This incident could have been avoided by proper planning of the ceremony, but it did not happen. I condemn in the strongest terms the police lathicharge," he said.

Baramati Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule also condemned the alleged use of force by the police.

"I condemn the government which lathi-charged warkaris. What has never happened before has happened this year. This pilgrimage is hundreds of years of tradition. There had never been an incident of force being used on the warkaris before," she said.

"The attack on the pilgrims is a very infuriating. There is a need to investigate the guilty persons and take immediate action against them," she added.

(With inputs from Loksatta.)

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