Hundreds of people took part in the Savarkar Gaurav Yatra led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in his hometown Thane on Sunday (April 2). The event was held to honour late Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar.
The BJP and Shinde-led Shiv Sena had last month announced that Savarkar Gaurav Yatras would be organised in each Maharashtra district to honour Savarkar’s contribution to the country and to counter Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s criticism against him.
On Sunday, the yatra participants, wearing saffron caps with “Mi Savarkar” (I am Savarkar) and other messages written on them, paid floral tributes to Savarkar at the Ram Ganesh Gadkari Rangayatan auditorium in Thane city from where the yatra commenced.
#WATCH | Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde takes part in BJP-Shiv Sena's 'Savarkar Gaurav Yatra' in Thane pic.twitter.com/L2CmVSpgJT
— ANI (@ANI) April 2, 2023
“Insult of Savarkar insult of every Indian”
Upon the culmination of the rally, Shinde addressed a gathering, slamming Gandhi for his repeated attacks on Savarkar. Shinde said insults to freedom fighters were akin to insulting the nation. People are angry to see some forces trying to malign Hindutva by attacking Savarkar, Shinde said.
“We have noticed citizens expressing disappointment over some people consistently insulting Savarkar. An insult of Savarkar is the insult of every Indian. I openly condemn people like Rahul Gandhi for his tirade against Savarkar. I dare anyone to live a day in the Cellular Jail the way Savarkar was jailed,” Shinde said.
Without taking names, he also took a veiled swipe at Shiv Sena (UBT) Uddhav Thackeray. “Balasaheb Thackeray had hit the effigy of Mani Shankar Aiyar once (for such remarks). Unfortunately, some people who claim Balasaheb Thackeray’s legacy are now sitting with those (Congress, Rahul Gandhi) who have consistently attacked Savarkar,” Shinde said.
Also read: Savarkar is immaterial today; Rahul should choose his battles carefully
“People deliberately misinterpret Hindutva”
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Maharashtra chief minister said Hindutva was seen as an idea of aggression against minorities, but Modi had brought back its glory since 2014. “Hindutva is not against any religion. But some people deliberately keep misinterpreting it,” Shinde remarked.
A tableau displaying information related to Savarkar was also part of the yatra. Shinde and some other leaders of the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP coalition participated in the yatra on a makeshift chariot with a large photograph of Savarkar in the background. The vehicle was decorated with flowers and followed by supporters riding motorbikes with saffron flags on them.
The CM waved to citizens as the yatra moved to cover four Assembly segments in the city. Flowers were showered on the participants as they moved around Thane city using more than 200 motorbikes and around 100 auto-rickshaws raising slogans in praise of Savarkar and the country.
BJP leader Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Thane MLA Sanjay Kelkar, Thane BJP chief and MLC Niranjan Davkhare, former mayor Naresh Mhaske, Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik and many other local leaders of the ruling coalition participated in the yatra.
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Huge hoardings with pictures of Savarkar were put up in the city, patriotic songs were played during the yatra, and rangolis (colourful patterns) were made at various places.
Many women in colourful attire and carrying lezims (musical instruments) also participated in the yatra. Similar yatras were also taken out in some parts of Mumbai, a BJP leader said.
Rahul Gandhi’s ‘My name is not Savarkar, my name is Gandhi and Gandhi does not offer an apology to anyone” remark has drawn fire from the BJP.
The former Congress chief made the remark while addressing a press conference after being disqualified from the Lok Sabha and amid BJP’s demands for his apology for allegedly insulting OBCs with his “Modi surname” remark that got him convicted for criminal defamation.
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule last month said his party would take out Savarkar Gaurav Yatras in all 288 Assembly segments of the state from March 30 to April 6, and apart from senior BJP leaders, including Devendra Fadnavis, CM Shinde and 40 Shiv Sena MLAs would also participate in these.
Also read: ‘Prove Savarkar apologised’: grandson tells Rahul Gandhi
“We will reach out to people with the history of Savarkar and how he is being insulted by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and MPCC chief Nana Patole,” Bawankule had said.
(With agency inputs)