Protest, clash at Asaram Bapu’s pre-Holi event

Thane, March 18 (IANS) At least one media person was manhandled and his camera broken as supporters of spiritual leader Asaram Bapu clashed with political workers opposing a pre-Holi event in Navi Mumbai Monday, police said. Three people were detained.

Angry activists of the Republican Party of India (RPI) and other social groups demonstrated outside the Patni Grounds where Asaram Bapu celebrated Holi.
The protestors objected to the alleged wastage of water in the celebration as large parts of Maharashtra are facing acute drought.
The activists raised slogans demanding action against Asaram Bapu and there was stone-pelting involving the RPI workers and Asaram Bapu’s supporters, police said.
Asaram Bapu’s supporters manhadled and pushed around a cameraman from a private TV channel and heckled other media persons covering the pre-Holi function as police intervened to prevent the situation from escalating further.
Three people were detained for the manhandling incident, police said.
All political parties in Maharashtra have strongly condemned Asaram Bapu’s insistence of celebrating wet Holi in the backdrop of the acute drought in the state.
A spokesperson for the RPI demanded stringent action against Asaram Bapu and the organisers of his Holi functions.
He said the party has called upon all private and public organisations not to provide water for Asaram Bapu’s pre-Holi functions and instead divert the water to the needy villages.
Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant urged people to celebrate a dry Holi this year in view of the draught.
Sawant said the water in state’s reservoirs was barely 31 percent of the capacity and if people celebrate a dry Holi a lot of precious water can be saved for the remaining two-and-half months before the next monsoon.
Monday’s developments came a day after Asaram Bapu celebrated Holi in Nagpur using several tankers of water, drawing sharp reactions from the people and social organisations like Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS).
As in Nagpur on Sunday, Asaram Bapu celebrated Holi by directing coloured water jets on hordes of his supporters in Navi Mumbai from at least four water tankers hired from neighbouring Thane city.