Invoking religious sentiments and disrupting harmony is not new for the right-wing forces. Even with the experts predicting the COVID-19 third wave to hit the country, the Hindu right-wing is still pushing for mass gatherings for religious purposes.
In Tamil Nadu, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Hindu Munnani and Indu Makkal Katchi (IMK) want to conduct public events for Ganesh Chaturthi along with the idol procession and immersion on a large scale, despite the Union government advising against large assembly of people.
The parties, led by the BJP, have vowed to defy the ban imposed by the state government and called for mass processions and idol installation in public places. However, the state government has permitted worship and immersion by individuals, which the right-wing forces are refusing to accept.
The BJP cannot hold back its eccentricity towards ‘yatras’ with the party planning one such procession after another. After completing the three-day Jan Ashirvad Yatra led by Union minister of state L Murugan, BJP state president K Annamalai has now planned for a statewide yatra.
BJP AND DOUBLESPEAK
In an advisory to all state governments and union territories on August 28, the Union home secretary has advised avoiding mass gatherings, considering the festival season. But, the BJP state president, K Annamalai claimed that the state government did not consult with any stakeholders before deciding to ban the mass processions related to Ganesh Chaturti on September 10.
“The second wave of COVID-19 is over and there are no signs of a third wave in the state. The state government did not consult with the statue producers or organisers of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. We cannot accept a blanket ban by the state government,” he said.
The BJP president also announced that the party would install one lakh Ganesh idols in front of the homes of the party followers for three days starting September 10.
Senior journalist Mani, while participating in a television debate, accused the BJP of practising double standards. “The Union government has advised the state governments even to impose local restrictions to curb gatherings. It is highly insensitive on the part of BJP to defy such advice”, he added.
BJP MLA, M R Gandhi raised the issue of ban imposed by the DMK-led Tamil Nadu government on public celebrations. The minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, P K Sekar Babu quoted the advice of the Union Home Secretary and said that the government wants to adopt precautionary steps, considering the threat of the third wave.
BJP state treasurer S R Sekhar accused the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government of playing with the emotions of Hindus by banning Hindu festivals.
FRINGE GROUPS PROPAGATE DIVISE AGENDA
The Hindu Munnani and IMK continue to raise revolt citing the permission granted by governments of Karnataka and Puducherry to celebrate the festival with restrictions.
Kadeswara Subramaniam, president of the Hindu Munnani, said, “If the state government is interested in implementing the orders of the Union government, why are they passing resolutions against farm laws and opposing NEET? The government is permitting festivals of other religions but banning Hindu festivals,”
The Hindu Munnani has called for a hunger protest on September 6 in Chennai, demanding the state government to revoke the ban.
The IMK president Arjun Sampath called for a show of strength and urged Hindus to hit the streets on September 6. The Twitter handle of the IMK continues to post provocative tweets, aimed at creating communal tensions.
K Balakrishnan, state secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], condemned the right-wing forces for inciting communal tensions.
“The government has granted permission for worship at homes and Ganesh idol immersion in water bodies by individuals. The BJP and Hindu Munnani are trying to communalise the issue. They are not devotional, their agenda is riot wit,” he tweeted.
Former IAS officer and Congress leader Sashikanth Senthil commented, “The BJP has taken the issue of Vinayakar (Lord Ganesh) to divert attention from the video.” He was referring to the recently leaked alleged sex chat of former BJP state general secretary K T Ragavan that created a storm in the state.
BJP’S BIZZARE YATRA CRAZE
Tamil Nadu BJP leadership continues to show a keen interest in carrying out yatras, even when the pandemic poses a threat to the population. The BJP state president is on a statewide yatra from Tenkasi. The party has organised meetings of cadres in the districts en route, with the local body elections around the corner.
In August, the party carried out a three-day ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ or the Makkal Aasi yatra in the western districts, led by the Union minister of state L Murugan. The yatra covered five districts in western Tamil Nadu; the party claimed that the yatra was aimed at introducing the new Union minister to the public and explain the achievements of the BJP-led central government.
Union minister of state Dr L Murugan and state BJP president K Annamalai during the Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Namakkal (Courtesy: Dr L Murugan, Twitter account)
On both occasions, the BJP announced that COVID-19 protocols would be followed considering the pandemic. However, the images shared by both the leaders indicate that the protocols were sent for a toss.
Last year, the BJP had taken out the ‘Vetrivel Yatra’ during November and December. The party defied the ban imposed by the then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government, though both were in an alliance.
The BJP and the right-wing forces are desperately trying to devise religious polarisation in Tamil Nadu, but have failed miserably on multiple occasions. Nevertheless, the present call for defying the retrictions on public gatherings has earned only a lukewarm response.