A delegation of politicians from Shirdi met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, amid a raging controversy over the birthplace of revered saint Sai Baba. When the party leaders stepped out hours later, it was with satisfaction over Mr Thackeray's assurances.
"The Chief Minister has assured us that there was no question about the birth place of Sai Baba. Hence, we have decided to call off our protest," Shiv Sena MP Sadashiv Lokhande told reporters at the Sahyadri guest house, where the meeting with Mr Thackeray took place.
Many protested when Uddhav Thackeray promised to allot funds amounting to Rs 100 crore to Pathri, which he described as Sai Baba's birthplace, during a cabinet review meeting on January 9. A shutdown was called in Shirdi, and commercial establishments across the town have remained closed since Saturday evening.
Residents of Shirdi believe there is no mention of Sai Baba's birthplace anywhere, and that he had never even mentioned Pathri in his lifetime. President Ram Nath Kovind had first claimed in 2017 that the saint was born there.
The delegation, which included MP Sadashiv Lokhande and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, besides Sai Baba temple trust members and corporators, said they were not averse to the development of Pathri. "We only have a problem with it being described as Sai Baba's birthplace," one of them said.
Sai Baba, a saint equally revered by both Hindus and Muslims, preached the importance of self-realisation and the need to shun material pleasures until his death in the early 20th century. Not much is known about his origins, including his date and place of birth.