New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi government banned all religious congregations Tuesday amid a nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But the order didn’t deter Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath from attending a religious function in Ayodhya, and subsequently courting a controversy.
In the early hours of Wednesday, Adityanath took part in an event to shift Lord Ram Lalla – the deity installed at the once-disputed Ram temple site in Ayodhya – to a new temporary temple on the first day of Navratri within the premises of the site.
Conducted at 4 am, the CM’s presence at the function, where nearly 100 people allegedly gathered, prompted criticism from the opposition parties.
If Uttar Pradesh CM won’t heed PM’s advice on social distancing to fight coronavirus, then why would the common public, asked UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu.
Aimed at the preventive measure of social distancing, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs order Tuesday said all places of worship will remain closed for public until 14 April. No religious congregations will be permitted, without any exception, it added.
With a death toll of 10 and case load of over 550, India is looking to prevent its transition to stage 3 of the virus outbreak in the country.
Amid the row over his temple visit, CM Adityanath took to microblogging site Twitter to term the ritual as the beginning of the first phase of the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
Asked to comment on the row, a senior Uttar Pradesh government official said no norms have been violated. “It was not a public function and the shifting was held inside the mandir precincts. This is part of mandir proceedings. We are following all norms,” he said.
What the opposition said
Speaking to ThePrint, Congress’ Ajay Kumar Lallu said, “Even we wanted to visit the temple on the first day of Navratri. But we decided to follow the PM’s appeal he made yesterday when we asked everyone to stay indoors. But Uttar Pradesh CM is not listening to PM Modi it seems. He has made a mockery of the entire situation.”
He added, “Is this how he will fight coronavirus? It is a big lapse by the government. If people occupying constitutional positions will not adhere to government directions what can we expect from the common people,” Lallu said, alleging that there were over 100 people at the event.
Samajwadi Party MLC Udaiveer Singh told ThePrint the CM has “given worst sort of message”.
“If cant control himself for social gathering then how can he control masses. On first day of Navratri we have not gone to temple & controlled our religious sentiments, so why he can not control himself in such worst situation due to coronavirus,” said Singh.
However, the ruling BJP’s UP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi claimed that all precautionary measures were taken during the event, adding that the opposition is coming from people who don’t want the temple.
“It was a closed-door event, it was not for public. Only some trust members and Yogi attended it. So how can one say that CM has not followed the guidelines. Only those people are saying it who did not want Ram temple in Ayodhya.”
What happened at the event
During the controversial function, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath presented a check of Rs 11 lakh to the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust’s General Secretary Champat Rai. The trust is responsible for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, according to a Supreme Court order last year on the once-disputed Babri Masjid site.
Rai told ThePrint that Lord Ram Lalla was shifted to the temporary structure at an auspicious time, referring to the early morning.
Those who were present included trust members Anil Mishra, Mahant Suresh Das, Bimlendra Mishra, and mahant (saint) Satyendra Das.
Adityanath had reached Ayodhya Tuesday to take part in the ceremony. After attending it, he departed for his native Gorakhpur.