Munde’s daughter Pankaja to perform last rites

Beed (Maharashtra) : The village of Parali in Maharashtra’s Beed district was transformed into a sea of grieving humanity as union minister Gopinath Munde’s body reached here by a helicopter from Latur Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of youth and party workers ran towards the chopper to catch a glimpse of their beloved leader who was born in a small hamlet here, grew and carved a niche for himself in national politics.

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The impatient, jostling and often crying men and women braved the scorching heat of the parched and backward Marathwada region which lost its third son of the soil in barely eight years — first it was Pramod Mahajan, later Vilasrao Deshmukh and now Munde.

Leaders, including union minister Prakash Javadekar and Munde’s eldest daughter and legislator Pankaja Munde-Palve, fervently appealed on the microphone to the crowds to remain calm as people could be seen thumping their chests and heads.

The government has decided to accord a state funeral to Munde and after the formalities are completed, Pankaja will light the funeral pyre of her father.

Pankaja’s action will be symbolic and send positive signals in the Marathwada region which has been regularly in the news for incidents of female foeticide.

In fact, Maharashtra has been at the forefront of social reforms for women for over two centuries, attempting to break the millennium old caste, creed and gender barriers, courtesy a string of great reformers like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Upasani Baba who was influenced by the revered saint Saibaba of Shirdi, and many others.

In recent times, for nearly four decades now, women are being trained as priests by the Shankar Seva Samiti, Pune, and last month the Vitthal-Rukmini Temple Trust at Pandharpur officially decided to appoint women and backward castes as priests.

“More public personalities like Pankaja Munde-Palve taking part in such ceremonies which are nationally televised can be a tremendous boost for gender equality and improving the lot of deprived women in our society,” says Mumbai priest and astro-aura expert Milan Thakar.