‘No Entry’ For Non-Hindus at Varanasi Ghats?
Scores of communal posters were pasted on many ghats (river banks) in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday. The posters, in effect, ‘warned’ non-Hindus to stay away from the public ghats of Varanasi including Asi Ghat, and announced that entry of non-Hindus to the ghats is prohibited. The posters carry the names of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal Kashi.
The posters read, "Ganga, ghats of Varanasi and temples are symbols of Sanatan Dharma, Indian culture and centre of our faith. Those who follow Sanatan Dharma are welcome at the ghats. These are not picnic spots."
In a display of the ‘protection’ these Hindutva groups enjoy in Uttar Pradesh, a man identified as Nikhil Tripathi Rudra, the Varanasi convener of Bajrang Dal told the media that the ‘instructions’ on these communal posters were “not a request. This is a warning.” He proudly accepted that the posters had been put up by his group and added that Bajrang Dal workers will “stage a demonstration if people don’t stop using the ghats as a picnic spot.” He further said, “Now Hindus will have to show strength, to come forward to protect religion and society,” adding that “not everything can be left to the government. Whoever is seen entering the temple or Ganga Ghat, will be caught from the spot and handed over to the police,” reported Dainik Bhaskar.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Rajan Gupta told the media that “the temple and Ganga Ghat are the places of faith and belief of the people of Sanatan Dharma." He asked, "What work do people of other religions have here?”
Meanwhile, according to a report in Hindustan Times, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad member Rakesh Ranjan Tripathi “expressed no knowledge of the posters and said that everyone was free to visit the ghats." According to the news report, after the news of these communal posters spread, the local “police removed them from various ghats.”
No separation of Religion and State, empowers Hindutva mobs
These communal posters now making news, need to be seen in that context, as local Hindutva groups have become more active since 2021, in the state, and are at their peak now that dates of Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections 2022 are to be announced soon.
In December 2021, the area MP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath corridore in Varanasi and put the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva agenda front and centre. He took a dip in the Ganga, performed an elaborate puja, and the entire event was telecast live. Prime Minister had also said, “Terrorists have invaded this city, tried to destroy it! History has borne witness to Aurangzeb’s atrocities and terror. He tried to change civilization with the might of his sword, he tried to crush culture using extreme methods. But the soil of this land is different from that of others. If Aurangzeb comes here, Shivaji stands up to him!”
The PM has so far remained silent on communal speeches by his own party men, as well as heads of right-wing groups. Such instances of hate speech are on the rise as many state elections loom on the horizon. Many BJP politicians, have been echoing anti-Muslim and anti-Christian hate speeches like the ones made at Haridwar recently. Even though they have made the headlines for their extreme views, however as they are yet to be censured by the BJP’s senior leadership, it may be seen as an ‘encouragement’ and thus inspire many more.
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