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Maharashtra governor, an RSS man, 'ignores': Festival season may aggrave Covid-19

BJP protest demanding opening up temples in Maharashtra
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari is upset with chief minister Udhav Thackeray and his government for not allowing the ‘religious places’ to open up during the festival season. Suggesting that our Gods and Goddesses have been “condemned” to stay under lockdown, he has told Thackeray, "You have been a strong votary of Hindutva. You had publicly espoused your devotion for Lord Rama by visiting Ayodhya after taking charge as chief minister.”
The governor continued in his letter, “You had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja on Ashadhi Ekadashi. I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the reopening of places of worship time and again or have you turned 'secular' yourselves, a term you hated?"
It looks like Koshiyari is highly disturbed to see temples locked up. The tone of his letter is highly derogatory and unbecoming of governor of a state. The letter seems to be drafted by the IT cell of BJP. Of course, Koshiyari, an old hand of RSS, can’t be expected to dispose of his ‘ideology’ simply because he has become ‘governor’. The fact is his party has not shed its ‘ideology’ and has already made ‘secularism’ and ‘socialism’ look like criminal and unconstitutional words. Koshiyari is just following the perceptions built by Sangh ideologues for decades.
Sharad Pawar has done well to write a letter of protest to the Prime Minister against the outburst of Koshiyari, who is duty bound to protect the Constitution and speak the language of the Constitution, in whose Preamble the word secular figures, even if all the practical purposes the Government of India might have done away with it.
As for the issue of the Maharashtra government dealing with Covid-19, it has been a state with the highest number of infected people and pandemic-related deaths in India. Yet, one must appreciate the government of the state for persistently focusing on the issue and not letting things go off the guard.
Leading epidemiologists and other experts are already suggesting that there may be resurgence in Covid-19 cases, and that next few months would be crucial. It is also a fact that we will face a weather change in the coming days resulting in seasonal ailments like viral fever, cough and cold related issues which can aggravate the situation. The Government of India, too, is campaigning that, despite unlocking, we must maintain physical distancing, use mask appropriately and wash of our hands every now and then.
Koshiyari and other BJP members should not ignore the fact that, in March, the Hindutva groups and others like them blamed Tablighi Jamat for ‘spreading’ the virus after they had ‘wrongly’ congregated for their programme in Nizamuddin in Delhi.
Sharar Pawar with Uddhav Thackeray
However, soon reports began pouring in about temple priests and other religious workers catching up the coronavirus disease. Stories from Tirupathi and other important places are already available in the media. Even in Uttar Pradesh, there are restriction for public programmes as also temples. So, what is wrong if the Maharashtra government has not allowed the opening of temples?
We all know that Gods and Goddesses have been the biggest helpless creatures during the pandemic, and how their ‘power’ faded. The political leadership world over knows that it is ultimately man and science which have to do the needful to protect humanity. But regressive forces will always be there to ensure that people continue to remain religious, so that their ‘politics’ can flourish.
Not Hindutva or secularism but of governance which should be primary in our hearts. For the next three months, there will a number of festivals, stating with Navaratri, followed by Dusshera, Diwali and Chhath, and ending with Christman. During this period, it would be very difficult for authorities to keep the Covid protocol intact if people throng at religious places.
When doctors suggest there would be resurgence of Covid cases in the coming month, there aren’t just referring to weather but also the festival season, which is now next door. We have to decide what we wish to do, and whether it is good to allow people to crowd at public places and “help” aggravate the situation, or focus on protective measures. Political parties and social and cultural organisations would do well not to compete with each other by playing the victim card in this regard.
Politicization of religious festivals in Maharasthra would be risky. Comparing the need to open up temples with that of bars and restaurant, too, is misguided, as these are not public places. Along with industry, they can open up following a specifically designed protocol in order to ensure that we can maintain balance between people’s needs and running the economy.
Whether Shiv Sena is a Hindutva party or not, the stand taken by Uddhav Thackeray and his government on various issues, including that of protecting the Aarey Forest area in Mumbai, should be appreciated and acknowledged. The governor’s letter to the chief minister is not in public interest but only seeks to promote his party’s propaganda in order to create obstacles for the state government, which is unfortunate.
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*Human rights defender

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