Other States

As remark on Char Dham deaths triggers row, BJP leader says video shows half-truth

Uttarakhand Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, whose remark purportedly blaming COVID-related complications for the deaths during this year's Char Dham yatra has triggered a row, on May 15 said he was only quoting officials.

In a video that surfaced on social media on May 14, Uttarakhand BJP spokesperson Shadab Shams was heard saying that pilgrims were hiding health issues and undertaking the arduous journey in the belief that they would attain " moksha" even if something happened to them.

As the video created a controversy, Congress leaders of the State demanded an apology from Mr. Shams and accused him of hurting religious sentiments. They claimed that by making remarks like these, the BJP leader was only trying to hide the mismanagement of the yatra.

Responding to the allegations, Mr. Shams said, "The video clip that went viral shows only half-truth, which is more harmful than a lie. When asked by news portals about rising pilgrim deaths on way to the shrines, I quoted officials who had said that mostly the pilgrims with COVID history were dying as they were hiding their complications from the authorities in the belief that even if something happened to them en route to the temples, they would be absolved of their sins and attain moksha." It was a statement made by the officials, and he was only quoting them, the BJP leader asserted.

"My intention was only to convey to pilgrims that they should not hide complications like breathlessness, high blood pressure and blood sugar from the authorities just because they are keen to visit the temples. All I wanted to say was that people should strictly follow the Chief Minister's advisory and travel only if they are fit," Mr. Shams said.

"However, if my statement has hurt sentiments, I extend my sincerest apologies," Mr. Shams said.

The State government has made good arrangements for pilgrims on the Char Dham yatra route, the BJP leader said, and asked the opposition not to create fear in the minds of the people coming for the pilgrimage.

Around 23 pilgrims have died on their way to the temples so far since the start of the Char Dham yatra on May 3.

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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 5:38:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/as-remark-on-char-dham-deaths-triggers-row-bjp-leader-says-video-shows-half-truth/article65416727.ece