Maharashtra state is yet to reopen places of worship, which have been shut in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshyari has written a letter to the Chief Minister Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray requesting the reopening of the places of worship at the earliest. However, the tone of the letter has created a controversy.
Governor’s Curt Letter:
The Governor wrote on October 12, 2020 that although the Chief Minister had announced easing the lockdown through Mission Begin Again ‘Punasch Hari Om’ on June 1, 2020, the state is yet to open the doors of places of worship even after four months from that announcement. He termed it unfortunate that the ban has been further extended during the CM’s televised address on October 11, 2020.
“It is ironical that while on one hand the State Government has permitted the opening of bars, restaurants and beaches, on the other hand, our Gods and Goddesses have been condemned to stay in the lockdown”, the Governor wrote.
The Governor mentioned that several delegations of individuals, NGOs, religious and political leaders had met him to discuss about this issue of reopening places of worship. Noting that the Chief Minister has been a strong supporter of Hindutva and a devotee of Lord Ram, he wrote, “I wonder if you are receiving any divine premonition to keep postponing the reopening of the places of worship time and again or have you suddenly turned ‘secular’ yourselves, the term you hated?”
Referring to the reopening of places of worship in Delhi and other cities across the nation in June 2020, the Governor noted that there have not been any reports of a surge in COVID-19 cases from any of those places after the reopening. He concluded the letter by requesting the Chief Minister to reopen all places of worship immediately with the necessary precautions in place.
Chief Minister’s Response:
The Chief Minister wrote a strong response yesterday to the Governor’s letter. In the response written in Marathi, the Chief Minister retorted that he did not need a certificate from the Governor for his Hindutva. Referring to the recent meeting between the Governor and actress Kangana Ranaut, the Chief Minister noted that his brand of Hindutva did not include inviting people who compared Mumbai to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.
Just like how imposing the lockdown was not right, revoking the lockdown completely at once was also not right, the letter stated. The Chief Minister wondered behind the reason for the Governor’s question on whether the Chief Minister had turned secular. He asked if the Governor thought that opening places of worship is Hindutva while keeping them closed is secularism. The CM reminded the Governor that secularism was a key part of the Constitution and that the Governor had taken oath based on that Constitution.
Acknowledging the receipt of the letters of representation from different delegations forwarded by the Governor, the CM noted in his letter that all of them were from BJP office-bearers and its supporters. However, the government has taken cognizance of these letters and would take a decision on the matter in due course of time keeping the safety of people in mind.