MUMBAI: Protests by a Maratha organisation has forced the Maharashtra government to make the function honouring a Brahmin scholar with the state’s highest award a low-key affair.
The state government is all set to confer Maharashtra Bhushan on history researcher Babasaheb Purandare, 92, on Saturday. The award function is traditionally held at the city’s largest indoor auditorium, Shanmukhanand, which has a capacity of 3,000.
However, the event has been shifted to Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai to avert any untoward incident, following protests by the Sambhaji Brigade. Education Minister Vinod Tawde, who is also Guardian Minister for Mumbai Suburbs, confirmed that the function will be held at Raj Bhavan, in the presence of limited invitees.
A Committee under Tawde chose Purandare for the award for his research on Chhatrapati Shivaji’s history and his achievements. The Sambhaji Brigade has taken exception to the move, alleging that Purandare had helped US-based scholar James Laine to pen his controversial book, ‘Shivaji: Hindu King in Muslim India’.
The book was banned a decade ago owing to Laine’s controversial remarks on Shivaji. Jitendra Awhad, an NCP MLA from Thane, has backed Sambhaji Brigade on the issue, saying Purandare “wrote false history of Shivaji”. “The great King was truly secular in nature. Purandare portrayed him as anti-Muslim. He also has made some controversial remarks on the Maratha community in his book on Shivaji Maharaj,” he said.
Interestingly, the book was first published in the 1950s. Awhad denied opposing the government’s decision because of Purandare’s caste. “We are opposing now because he has been chosen for the award in spite of the reservations against him,” he said.