Odishatv Bureau

Shirdi: Residents of Shirdi in Maharashtra will call off from Sunday midnight the day-long bandh, observed in the temple town amid a row over the birthplace of 19th century saint Saibaba.

Leaders representing the Shirdi residents said that the decision to call off the shutdown was taken at a 'gram sabha' on Sunday evening in view of the meeting called by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Monday to discuss the issue.

They, however, warned that if the meeting with the CM fails to bring any satisfactory solution, an aggressive protest will be launched.

"The decision to end the bandh from Sunday midnight was taken in the evening 'gram sabha' (meeting) of local residents of Shirdi, representatives of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST)," Shiv Sena MP from Shirdi, Sadashiv Lokhande, said.

He said that besides him, representatives from Pathri and Shirdi, BJP MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, CEO of SSST, will attend the meeting called by the CM at 2 pm on Monday.

The bandh, which began after Saturday midnight, was observed to protest against Uddhav Thackeray's announcement of grant of Rs 100 crore for development of facilities at "Sai janmasthan" (birthplace) at Pathri in Parbhani district, nearly 273 kms away from Shirdi in Ahmednagar district.

Saibaba, a prominent spiritual figure of the 19th century, is equally revered by Hindus and Muslims.

Former trustee of the temple, Kailash Kote, said that if the outcome of the CM's meeting is not satisfactory, then the residents of Shirdi will protest aggressively.

About 500 locals were present at the gram sabha, he said.

Another former trustee sachin Tambe Patilsaid that the bandh will be called off after Sunday midnight.

"Since the meeting is scheduled tomorrow at 2 pm, we decided to call off the bandh. If the outcome is not satisfactory for us, we will decide the future course of action," he said.

Apart from Shirdi, Sunday's bandh was also observed in at least 25 villages around the temple town.

On Sunday morning, a rally was taken out by devotees of Saibaba and locals around the Shirdi temple.

However, the Saibaba temple remained open throughout the day with no report of devotees facing any inconvenience even as shops and eateries downed their shutters and vehicles remained off roads.

The devotees were allowed to offer prayers at the temple and residents of Shirdi provided food and water for the devotees visiting the shrine, officials of the temple trust and Ahmednagar district administration said.

There are many beliefs about the actual birth place of the mystique saint, who enjoys a massive following in India and among Indians abroad.

Residents of Pathri village often cite Saibaba's biography 'Sri Saisachharitra' to claim that he was born in their town.