Marking the beginning of the 10-day long Ganeshotsav, passionate Mumbaikars have welcomed the Elephant-headed God on Thursday with high spirits and style. The massive Ganesha bash in the city has always been much publicised due to its underworld connection. 58-year-old Chhota Rajan is currently serving life imprisonment in Taloja central jail after being convicted in the 34-year-old sensational murder case of Mumbai-based veteran crime journalist J Dey and Chembur’s Tilak Nagar pandal which is rumoured to be funded by the gangster has again welcomed the festivities this year. While the rumours around Rajan to seek permission from the court for Ganapati darshan has added enough buzz to the city’s festive mood!
In a conversation with Lawyer and Social Activist Abha Singh, she exclaimed, “Parole is granted by the court only when there is some family emergency or crisis-like situation which is mentioned in the Prison Manual such as parole on medical ground and land or farming related things or somebody’s marriage, death. There is no regulation to grant parole to attend festivals. Chhota Rajan is not entitled to get a parole even on the technical ground. Anyway, now there is an awareness in the media regarding his parole hence, one wrong action will catch the eyes.”
The gigantic pandals in Tilak Nagar have drastically shrunk in size over the past few years. Though the scuttlebutt around Rajan’s assumed plan to be present in this year’s Ganesha celebrations is yet to get its validation, but if the assumptions end up to be true, the locality will again witness the underworld glamour and definitely rekindle old memories.
When AV asked the NCP leader and lawyer Majeed Memon regarding the parole of Chhota Rajan, he stated, “Court may be able to consider parole for provisional relief only on some genuinely reasonable ground. However, in this case of religious matter, the court may not accept the parole. The court comes to the conclusion as to whether accept or reject parole depending upon various factors.”
Ganesh Chaturthi is the major festival celebrated in the island city with great enthusiasm and devotion. Though the increasing popularity of Plaster of Paris idols, escalating prices of raw materials, GST, plastic ban posed a major threat to the traditional idol makers, the city’s soul of pompous celebrations across the state has seen no offshoot.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior journalist asserted, “It is not possible for Chhota Rajan to get parole for the Ganesh darshan as he has many threats for his life.”
There are over 10,000 sarvajanik mandals in the city and an estimated three lakh idols, big and small. As per the sources’ reports from the last few years, the underworld gangster was reportedly monitoring activity at the Sahyadri Krida Mandal in Tilak Nagar through his social media page. The organisers have launched Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages on which one can easily get darshan of the Lord Ganesha. The don may be lodged in Taloja central jail at present but all these years when he was absconding, Chhota Rajan alias Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje’s unbroken association with Mumbai’s 10-day long festivities was always a well-hyped rumour.
The Sahyadri Krida Mandal has very close ties to the Nikalje family and if rumours are to be believed, the first aarti is performed by Sujata Nikalje, Rajan’s wife. There was a time when the city’s Ganpati celebrations were always pumped up with the underworld funding and in the 1980s and 90s can be recalled as the most vivid memory. Later, Bal Thackeray’s enormous Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations became another political showstopper — undoubtedly, island city has always experienced the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations as a gigantic exhibition of power.
Senior journalist and activist S.Balakrishnan commented about the functioning of the Sahyadri Krida Mandal and said that the Mandal is not a recent phenomenon and is functioning for many years even without Chhota Rajan.
“Generally the court grants parole on the medical ground and not for Pooja or festivals as per their laws and criteria for the approval of parole. The festival is a matter of belief for the people of Tilak Nagar and Chembur, hence, people voluntarily contribute as they have faith in the Sahyadri Ganesh Mandal and also help in the pooja for their prosperity,” he added.