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Asaram Bapu's Holi splurges banned by Maharashtra
Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has banned self-proclaimed spiritual guru Asaram Bapu's Holi celebrations. The directive comes after Asaram Bapu, along with his followers, continued to indulge in pre-Holi revelry in and around Mumbai in defiance of an earlier government order against it. The festivities have been widely criticised for resulting in wastage of thousands of litres of water at a time when the state is facing its worst drought since 1972.

The 71-year-old's trust, though, continued to back him despite the criticism, saying the revelries did not amount to wastage of water. "Palaash flowers, tulsi, neem, Ganga jal and other ingredients were mixed with water. This has medicinal value. Followers take it as Prasad," Neelam Dubey, Asaram Bapu's spokesperson, claimed. "This formula is from our scriptures and I have myself seen the benefits as Bapuji's followers confirm that this solution prevents skin diseases, cools down body temperature and casts away depression," she added.

Angered by the media's criticism that over 50,000 litres of drinking water had been wasted in Nagpur for the self-styled godman's function on Sunday, Asaram Bapu's followers had assaulted journalists at his Holi celebrations yesterday in Navi Mumbai. Three mediapersons were injured and the police have now arrested 23 people on connection with the incident. Home Minister RR Patil said that inflammatory speeches were the main reason why his followers got provoked.

Incidentally, just before the violence broke out, Asaram Bapu had, at the public gathering, openly abused the media. "The media says I am wasting water...So should I do what these bastards say?" he had said.

"The context in which he said this is justified. He didn't abuse the media but those who were conspiring and using unscrupulous mediapersons against him. Hence, there is nothing wrong in this," Ms Dubey said, justifying the remarks.

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