Shiv Sena 'clears out' of Shivaji park

Mumbai, Dec 18 (IANS) Exactly a month after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's death, his public cremation site from the historic Shivaji Park ground in central Mumbai was removed amidst tight security early Tuesday, a party leader said.

"Yes, today (Tuesday) early morning, we have removed the urn containing Balasaheb's ashes and other things, and fully vacated the cremation site," senior party leader Rahul Shewale told IANS.

About shifting them to an alternative location, Shewale said a decision on this would be taken later in consultation with top party leaders.

The clearing out was done amidst tight security at Shivaji Park around 2.30 a.m. in the presence of a few top party leaders, including city Mayor Sunil Prabhu, Subhash Desai and Shewale.

The entire operation was carried out peacefully at the dead of the night though a group of Shiv Sainiks were assembled outside the 28-acre Shivaji Park precincts.

The late Thackeray, who died Nov 17, was accorded a state public funeral at Shivaji Park ground in south Mumbai.

However, after the cremation, the Shiv Sena was reluctant to vacate the premises and had demanded a memorial for the late leader at the spot.

Later, the cremation site was virtually 'converted' into a pilgrimage site with an 'eternal flame', maintaining round-the-clock vigil.

Tourists and students thronging the place daily to pay homage to the departed leader even as the authorities grappled with the sensitive issue.

The party demanded that Thackeray's memorial should be named as 'Shivtirth' among other things, but the government remained non-committal.

Finally, last week, after a meeting with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, party executive president Uddhav Thackeray softened his stance on the issue and said that the cremation site would remain at Shivaji Park, but at a new location.

"The site will remain at Shivaji Park, but at a little distance away, near the statue. The very same Shiv Sainiks who were Bal Thackeray's strength, shall carry out the task with their own hands," Uddhav had said.

"Thackeray's views always set afire Shivaji Park over the years. The same fiery thoughts will continue to inspire the people of Maharashtra from the same venue, and provide strength to Hindus.

"There will be a slight change in the location of the cremation site, which will remain at Shivaji Park," said Uddhav.

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