Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Issue of canine statue or dog-eat-dog politics?

Issue of canine statue or dog-eat-dog politics?
Sambhaji Brigade’s threat to raze statue of Shivaji’s pet dog in Raigad on June 6 perceived as move against community leaders

Devidas Deshpande

Posted On Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 06:36:22 AM

The capital city of Chhatrapati Shivaji is sullied by new caste politics. The Sambhaji Brigade on Wednesday demanded the removal of a dog’s statue from Raigad. On the other hand, intelligentsia and community leaders see this as a political move against them. In 1674, Shivaji's coronation took place in Raigad Fort where he also breathed his last in 1680.

The statue of the dog, Vaghya, his faithful pet, is built in front of Shivaji's grand memorial (samadhi) at the fort. Legend has it that Vaghya threw himself into the pyre during Shivaji's funeral. The memorial was built with a donation by Indore’s Prince Tukoji Holkar in 1906 who gave Rs 5,000 towards the dog's statue. Holkar belonged to the Dhangar (shepherds) community and members of this community believe the dog to be next to god.

Sambhaji Brigade’s state president, Pravin Gaikwad and district president, Vikas Pasalkar gave an ultimatum till June 6 (the day the Shivaji coronation ceremony is celebrated every year) to remove it failing which the Brigade's members will raze the statue.

“This memorial is that of one of Shivaji's queens. However, we don't have evidence to pinpoint whose memorial it is. But there is no proof of Vaghya the dog in historical documents and hence it is another attempt to twist historical facts,” they said. The Brigade is more upset because the dog’s statue is of the same height as Shivaji’s memorial.

The Maratha organization wants this dog statue removed before June 6 — the day Shivaji was coronated king

The demand has met with stiff opposition and led to resentment among non-Brahmin communities and academicians alike. Sanjay Sonawani, author of 62 books in Marathi, opined, “There is no evidence to suggest that this memorial belongs to Shivaji's queens.

Even if we accept that for the sake of argument, why were these organisations and the Maratha community silent for all these years? The two branches of Shivaji's clan, Satara and Kolhapur, never did anything to help build Shivaji's memorial. It was through the efforts of the Brahmins and Holkar, that the structure that we see today has come up. Destroying it will be negating the efforts of those who worked from 1915-1936 for these memorials.”

Sonawani opined that the Brigade is buoyed by their ‘victory’ in Dadoji statue issue and is now looking for their next target. “All the signs point to political game where other castes and communities are being marginalised. First, it was Maratha-Brahmin politics, now it is Maratha-Non-Maratha one,” he said. Raigad was the capital during Shivaji’s rule.

It was in use till 1818 when the Maratha empire under the Peshwas was usurped by the British. who destroyed the fort over a period of two days with artillery shells. It was neglected till 1879 when Mahatma Phule first visited the fort and cleaned Shivaji’s memorial site. Later, Lokmanya Tilak started a campaign to rebuild the memorial with donations from the public. Shivaji’s memorial was built in 1926 while the dog’s statue came up in 1936.

Professor Hari Narke, head of Mahatma Jotiba Phule chair in the University of Pune said that Krishnaji Keluskar was the first to write Shivaji's biography in Marathi as well as in English. He incurred huge debts at that time and it was Tukoji Holkar who helped him out. “Keluskar wrote in his book that people taking Shivaji's name (meaning Marathas) are not helping him.

But Holkar lent a hand,” said Narke. “Will it be correct to remove the statue after keeping mum for so long? Isn't this heralding politics against nomadic tribes and OBC,” he asked. Mahadev Jankar, National President of Rashtriya Samaj Party and Dhangar community leader, echoed same sentiment. He said that the community is watching events as they unfold.

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