“Have you forgotten that you also swore by the Constitution that also has the word 'secular'?”
Geetanjali Minhas | October 13, 2020 | Mumbai
As Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari went sarcastic and wrote to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, asking him if he had turned ‘secular’ – an epithet he hated, as the places of worship remain closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic; the Shiv Sena chief replied he did not need certificate from him.
The letter dated October 12 says that the CM in his televised address on June 1 had announced that the state was embarking on Mission Begin Again, ‘Punasch Hari Om’, and “famously” declared that the word ‘lockdown’ was being consigned to the dustbin from that very day. These words had raised much hope in the minds of people tired of the long spell of movement restrictions.
“Most unfortunately, four months after your famous public announcement, you extended the ban on the opening of places of worship in the state yet again, the announcement of which was made by you in your televised address on October 11. It is ironical that on one hand the state government has permitted opening of bars, restaurants and beaches, on the other hand our Gods and Goddesses have been condemned to stay in the lockdown.”
Koshiyari says that several delegations of religious leaders, individuals, NGOs and political leaders have met him in the last three months demanding reopening of places of worship. Calling for opening of all places of worship with necessary Covid-19 precautions, the governor in his letter says that in Delhi, places of worship were opened on June 8 and later across the nation towards the end of June 2020 and there have no reports of surge in Covid-19 cases from these places.
“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. You had visited the Vitthal Rukmini Mandir in Pandharpur and performed the puja of 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 suddenly turned ‘secular’ yourself, the term you hated,” asks Koshiyari.
Thackeray, meanwhile, has said he does not need a “Hindutva certification” from anyone and that he would take a decision after careful consideration. Referring to prime minister Narendra Modi’s abrupt call for a national lockdown, he has said his government’s priority is to save people lives while safeguarding their emotions and beliefs. “Just as suddenly imposing lockdown was wrong, lifting it suddenly too was wrong,” he said.
On the governor asking him if he was receiving divine premonitions the CM said, “You said I am getting divine premonitions. Maybe you get them but I am not so big.”
Without naming the film star, he alluded to the controversy surrounding Kangana Ranaut and said, “Inviting people who call Mumbai PoK [Pakistan Occupied Kashmir] with smiles does not fall into my definition of Hindutva.”
The reopening of temples or delaying it is not a question of secularism, said Thackeray and wondered, “Have you forgotten that you also swore by the Constitution that also has the word 'secular'? Are you rejecting it? Is reopening temples not secular and keeping them closed secular,” he asked.
The CM also said that Maharashtra is the only state in the country that is executing a door-to-door health checkup campaign (called ‘My Family My Responsibility’) to counter the Covid-19 outbreak.
Maharashtra has been the most Covid-19-affected state. Concerned at the rising number of coronavirus cases and crowding of public places after easing of restrictions, the state government is worried about crowd control at religious places. While the BJP has been calling for opening of places of worship, its activists held demonstrations in Mumbai as well asNagpur, Kolhapur and Shirdi on Tuesday to demand the reopening of temples. Political leaders like Raj Thackeray, Assauddin Owaisi and Prakash Ambedkar also have argued for lifting the ban on places of worship.
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