The Opposition’s Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and several other social and political groups Tuesday staged protests in Pune against the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the city to accept the Lokmanya Tilak Award and inaugurate developmental projects.
PM Modi will be conferred the Lokmanya Tilak Award, named after Bal Gangadhar Tilak, by the Lokmanya Tilak Trust later in the day, which also marks the death anniversary of the freedom fighter.
During its protest, the Opposition alliance highlighted the ongoing violence in Manipur and other alleged anti-people policies of the Central Government in the Northeastern state. “The Prime Minister is needed in Manipur, he is not welcome here,” said Pune Congress chief Arvind Shinde.
As the Opposition alliance, which includes the Congress, Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), and Communist Party of India, among others, held their protest near the statute of Lokmanya Tilak in the city’s Mandai area, a group of people from Manipur also joined in. Senior labour leader Baba Adhav also joined the protests and asked for justice for Manipur.
Congress leaders alleged the police have detained many party workers since Monday night to stop them from attending the protest. Communist leader Ajit Abhyankar and Kumar Saptarshi of the Yuvak Kranti Dal also said their members were detained by the police.
“This protest site was decided after a discussion with the police. Then why are they taking the protesters to police stations? These are kidnappings,” said Shinde.
Congress MLA from Kasba Ravindra Dhangekar along with party leaders Mohan Joshi and Ramesh Bagawe were detained by the Pune police while they were on their way to the protest site. They were later allowed to go to the site.
“In a democracy, you can’t use police force to suppress people’s expression. The police are not allowing us to protest peacefully,” said Dhangekar.
As heavy police bandobast marked the protest site which was a stone’s throw from the famous Dagaduseth Ganapathi temple where PM Modi was to offer prayers, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sushma Andhale questioned the force’s presence.
Most of the leaders also protested against the decision of the Tilak family to award the Tilak Award to Modi. “This award should not have been given to Modi,” said social activist Vishwambhar Choudhari associated with the Nirbhay Bano Andolan.
Amid criticism against Sharad Pawar sharing the stage with PM Modi during the award ceremony, NCP Pune unit chief Prashant Jagtap justified the party’s protest.
“Pawar Saheb had accepted the invitation four months ago when the party split had not occurred nor the Manipur issue had arisen. He is a man of his word and hence he has not backed down from the event. The party is against the PM coming to accept an award and ignoring a state in turmoil,” said Jagtap.
Advocate Asim Sarode said apart from political parties, a large number of civil society members are also at the protest site and are pained by the happenings in the country.
“This is for the first time that Pune has been turned into a fortress for a Prime Minister’s visit. Public money is being misused to crack down on protesters. Modi will definitely feel the repercussions of the Manipur mismanagement in 2024,” said Sarode.
Authorities have put in place a multilayer cover with more than 5,000 security personnel and officers, including Maharashtra’s elite Force One anti-terror commandos, for the Prime Minister’s Pune visit. The police have also imposed a ban on the use of drones and announced the closure of several arterial roads and traffic junctions in the city.