While the saffron party has accused the government of trying to appease non-Hindus by banning the celebrations, CM Stalin has pointed out that the Union Home Ministry has advised against large gatherings.
With the Tamil Nadu government banning public celebrations of the Vinayaka Chaturthi festival in the wake of Covid-19, the BJP and other right-wing organisations across the state have been up in arms for the past few days.
On Tuesday, replying to BJP legislative party leader Nainar Nagendran’s request to allow the festival in the state, Chief Minister M K Stalin said in the Assembly that the Union Home Ministry had advised state governments to take suitable measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including preventing large gatherings, till September 30. The festival falls on September 10.
“After Kerala government allowed people to gather during Onam and Bakrid festivals, there has been a surge in infections. In Tamil Nadu, we haven’t completely eradicated the virus. Hence, considering the safety and welfare of the public, the government has put restrictions in place for all festivals till September 15, including Vinayaka Chaturthi. The government has already said that restrictions are only for public celebrations. Individuals can celebrate the festival following Covid-19 guidelines in their homes,” he said.
Stalin’s response was directed not just at the BJP MLA but also at other pro-Hindu outfits which had been staging protests against the government.
On Monday, Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai had issued a statement questioning the DMK government’s decision to deny permission for the Hindu festival and alleging that it was meant to appease followers of other religions.
“When neighbouring states like Puducherry, Karnataka and Maharashtra can allow Vinayaka Chaturthi festival with restrictions, why deny permission in Tamil Nadu alone? Was the decision meant to garner the support of people of other religions and hurt the sentiments of followers of the Hindu religion?,” he asked.
He added that the BJP has planned to set up one lakh Vinayaka idols in front of houses to celebrate the festival. Further, Annamalai asked party workers and the general public to post Vinayaka Chaturthi greeting cards to the Chief Minister and alleged that Stalin was quick to share his wholehearted wishes for non-Hindu festivals.
On Monday, Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) PK Sekar Babu asked Annamalai not to do politics in the name of God. Noting that Lord Ganesh would also fulfil the wishes of devotees if pujas are performed at home, the minister said the government decided not to permit immersion processions this year due to the pandemic. He also warned of strict action against violators.
The Madras High Court said Monday that like last year, this time too the HR&CE Department will take care of the disposal of idols placed in small temples and at the doorsteps of homes.
What are the guidelines issued by the government?
The state government has denied permission for installation of idols in public places, processions and immersion of the idols in water bodies by organisations. Members of the public have been requested to celebrate the festival at home.
Individuals are allowed to carry the idols and immerse them in water bodies. In Chennai, citizens are not allowed to perform idol immersion in beaches, especially on the stretch between Santhome and Napier Bridge.
Individuals are allowed to keep idols at places of worship.
The government has stressed that only individuals are permitted to perform these acts. Action will be taken against anyone found violating the guidelines.
The government has also denied permission for gatherings in churches at Chennai’s Besant Nagar as well as in Velankanni and Nagapattinam for celebrations of Mother Mary’s feast of nativity on September 8. The restrictions are in view of the surge in Covid cases in neighbouring Kerala where public celebrations of Bakrid and Onam festivals had been allowed. To prevent congestion, the Greater Chennai Police have denied entry to members of the public for the annual car procession as well.
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