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Maharashtra BJP launches protest for reopening temples

BJP activists protest demanding the reopening of temples for public, in Pune on August 30, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Alleging that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government gave more importance to liquor bars than temples, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra staged an aggressive protest demanding the re-opening of temples on Monday.

Symbolically blowing conches in their shankhnaad agitation and defying COVID-19 regulations, hundreds of BJP activists and State leaders participated in protests in key temple areas of Pune, Mumbai, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Solapur districts flouting pandemic protocols.

Alleging that the MVA government was deliberately hurting sentiments of the Hindu community, BJP MLA from Mumbai’s Ghatkopar, Ram Kadam also charged that the government apparently gave permission for other religions for their festivities but was refusing to open temples.

“Please bear in mind, we are not advocating crowding in front of temples. But the government can certainly devise a system based on the issuance of online passes for lakhs of devotees who have not been able to offer worship at the iconic temples in Pandharpur and Shirdi. When you can make rules for beer bars, then why does this government dither when it comes to re-opening temples,” said Mr. Kadam.

Police at temples

Earlier, a police shield had been stationed outside the famous Siddhi Vinayak Temple to prevent Mr. Kadam from holding a protest there.

“The BJP has never said crowd in front of temples and spread the virus, but has been urging the government to re-open temples and ensure the conduct of puja in a disciplined manner by permitting entry to batches of 500 devotees a time. While the government gives permission overnight for communities of other religions, why does it vacillate when it comes to reopening temples or permitting the dahi handi festival,” said the MLA

BJP State President Chandrakant Patil, who led the agitation in front of Pune’s Kasba Peth Ganesh Temple, blamed the government for not enforcing pandemic norms fairly.

“This government gives more importance to liquor bars than temples. It turns a blind eye to massive crowds outside liquor shops. While the police does not use force to act against the throng outside these shops, they use disproportionate force to disperse BJP workers who make a humble request for the re-opening of temples,” alleged Mr. Patil, justifying the BJP agitation.

He said the symbolic conch-blowing protest was necessary to wake up the MVA, which was in deep slumber and not heeding pleas to re-open temples for the last 15 months.

At the Vitthal-Rukmini Temple complex in Pandharpur (in Solapur district), several hundred BJP activists with party flags broke barricades and attempted to storm the temple precincts in defiance of police orders.

Congress questions

A partner in the coalition government, the Congress hit out at the contradictory stand taken by the BJP government at the Centre and the party’s Maharashtra unit over celebration of festivals and the re-opening of temples amid the looming threat of a third wave of infections.

The Congress said that despite the Modi government’s directives on restrictions on festivities, why were Maharashtra BJP leaders pressurising the MVA government to permit festivities and allow temples to be reopened.

Octogenarian social activist Anna Hazare, echoing the BJP’s demand, has questioned the Maharashtra government's stance to not reopen temples. He further said that he would support the [BJP’s] agitation while pointing to the massive queues outside liquor shops.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 2:33:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-bjp-launches-protest-for-reopening-temples/article36184898.ece

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