NAGPUR/YAVATMAL: Despite restrictions in place at Washim district, a large number of supporters joined minister Sanjay Rathod’s convoy on Tuesday during his visit to Pohradevi temple, following which police lathi-charged the crowd to disperse it.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, who had on Sunday asked netas to refrain from holding events, has sought a report from the Washim district officials.
Forest minister Rathod is Shiv Sena MLA from Digras-Darwah. Accompanied by his wife, Rathod visited the Goddess Jagadamba Temple, Sevalal Maharaj temple and the samadhi of Ramrao Maharaj.
Washim SP Vasant Pardeshi told TOI that there was no requirement for special permission for the temple visit. “Information about the minister’s visit to the temple had been conveyed to the collector’s office, and through them to us for bandobast requirements,” he said.
Rathod’s visit to the temple attracted a more than normal attention because this was his first public appearance after almost two weeks due to a controversy which has now taken a political turn. He is being linked to a suicide by a woman in Pune.
The minister travelled by road from the neighbouring Yavatmal district, of which he is the guardian minister, to reach the temple which is approximately 90 kms away. The temple is a much revered pilgrimage destination for the Banjara community, to which Rathod belongs.
Video clips from the spot give a rough timeline of how things unfolded. One video clip shows all supporters in proximity, many without masks, at a time when the district has been placed under a limited lockdown. Another video shows the cops trying to keep the supporters away from Rathod’s vehicle but being outnumbered. In another video the cops can be seen lathi-charging the crowd to push them away from the vehicle.
Pardeshi said around 10,000 people had assembled violating Covid norms but denied the lathi charge incident. “Police had to push people away from the place. We used minimum efforts to move people out from assembling in public places,” he said, adding “an offence will be registered against those who had assembled near the temple in breach of Covid norms”.
Currently Washim is under lockdown where all non-essential commodity establishments have to close down after 5PM.
Saying that he sympathizes with the family of the woman who died by suicide, Rathod said, “The police are inquiring into the matter based on an order by the CM. Let the truth come out.”
On his absence from public life, Rathod said he was his family parents during the last 14 days.