On Sunday, the villagers of Shirdi decided to temporarily suspend the indefinite bandh over the dispute on Sai Baba’s birthplace. They considered factors such as the willingness of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to hold talks with the protesters and the convenience of the devotees. However, they warned that they would re-start their agitation if the Maharashtra CM did not make a satisfactory decision. Despite the bandh, the Sai Baba temple remained open.
The Sai Baba temple at Shirdi is one of the most popular destinations in the country, with lakhs of devotees thronging it every year. There has been a longstanding dispute over his birthplace. The situation turned for the worse when Thackeray announced a grant of Rs.100 crore for the purpose of developing Pathri during a review meeting of the development works in Parbhani district. Reportedly, the residents of Shirdi have the apprehension that the temple will lose its importance if Pathri is proven as the birthplace of Sai Baba.
मुख्यमंत्री मा. श्री. उद्धव बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांनी आज संभाजीनगर येथे आयोजित बैठकीत परभणी जिल्ह्यातील विविध विकासकामांचा आढावा घेतला. यावेळी परभणी जिल्ह्यातील पाथरी येथे साई जन्मस्थळाची जागा तीर्थक्षेत्राप्रमाणे विकसित करणार असल्याचे त्यांनी सांगितले. pic.twitter.com/37RiqurE5T— Office of Uddhav Thackeray (@OfficeofUT) January 9, 2020
After visiting the Sai Baba temple earlier in the day, Maharashtra Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal appealed to the protesters to take back their shutdown call. Assuring that Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would listen to both sides, Bhujbal contended that the shutdown had negatively impacted the devotees. He observed that the current dispute went against the essence of Sai Baba’s teachings.
Chhagan Bhujbal remarked, “I had come for the darshan. There is a bandh in Shirdi. Because there is a bandh in Shirdi, there is also a bandh in Pathri. I do not think there will be a solution by observing a bandh. Honourable Chief Minister has called a meeting tomorrow. In the meeting, he will listen to both sides. And then, he will comment on the issue. None of us is historians to take a firm position on this. Sai Baba himself would say that you should not ask me about caste, religion, birthplace and so forth. Sai Baba’s message was that I belong to all castes and religions.”