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CIMA Gallary

Garden memorial for Sena

Mumbai, Dec. 18: A month-long drama over a memorial to Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park appeared to end today when the Shiv Sena-run Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation accepted “in principle” a party proposal for a landscaped garden on the ground’s periphery.

The 40x20sqft garden will not be a structure, as Sena workers had initially demanded, but will bear the Sena founder’s name.

It will come up next to a statue of Shivaji on the cricket ground’s edges. The clearance came at a BMC meeting this evening after a Sena leader, Yashodhar Phanse, moved the proposal.

The final decision, however, will be taken after the BMC informs the Maharashtra government. The administration, in turn, will inform Bombay High Court, which has declared Shivaji Park a “silence zone” and a “playground” where no construction should be allowed.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Sena workers who had camped at the site to prevent the authorities from demolishing a platform built on the day of Thackeray’s cremation on November 18 took it down themselves. The platform had a pandal for people to pay homage.

The workers had initially ignored government appeals to dismantle the structure and vacate the ground till a decision on the memorial was taken.

But on Saturday, the Sena softened its stand after a meeting with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who indicated the temporary structure would be treated as an encroachment and removed if the government directive continued to go unheeded. The party’s leaders then mooted the garden proposal.

Shivaji Park is not registered as a cremation site or a burial ground under the BMC Act, 1888. But municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte — an IAS officer — had invoked powers vested with him under the law to treat Thackeray’s funeral as a special case.

That was done in consultation with the state government, which agreed as lakhs were expected to attend the funeral. But the permission mentioned the Sena would have to vacate the ground a day after the funeral.

On December 3, the BMC had issued a showcause notice warning it would be forced to take action if the party did not dismantle the structure.