Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren has rolled back his government’s decision to ban Chhath puja at public water bodies following severe backlash from opposition parties.
Addressing the media at Project Building, Soren said: “Considering popular sentiments and demands from all quarters, we have decided to allow devotees to go to ghats of rivers/ponds/water bodies as opposed to the earlier order.”
Chhath puja is a major Hindu festival celebrated by the people of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The main ritual includes mass bathing and offering puja to the Sun God at river banks and ghats early in the morning.
The state government had on Sunday issued a notification prohibiting congregation and religious ceremony on the banks of rivers, ponds and other public waterbodies for Chhath puja in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following the order, opposition parties requested the chief minister to reconsider the decision since the festival was related to the faith of a larger chunk of the state population.
State BJP chief Deepak Prakash in a letter to Soren said: “As the matter is related to the belief of the people, such a decision must have been taken only after discussion with the representatives of the people.”
In a symbolic protest, several state leaders even took a dip in a pond in Ranchi on Monday.
BJP MLA Anant Ojha said: “The guidelines issued by the Jharkhand government has angered people. This auspicious festival has been followed for centuries, I urge the Soren government to reconsider its decision and issue new guidelines in view of coronavirus on the lines of Bihar and other states.”
Several Hindu organisations also accused the Soren government of maintaining double standards on coronavirus. They also threw open challenges saying devotees would definitely offer prayers to the Sun God near water bodies even if they were to receive police batons.
Looking at the seriousness of the matter, the Soren government was forced to reconsider its decision.
Hailing the outcome, the BJP claimed success of its sustained efforts to safeguard “Hindu rituals”. Prakash was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: “We are happy that the government has taken back its Tuglaki farman (autocratic diktat). Public sentiments have won over the mindless order issued by the government. This is the victory over wrong policies of the incumbent government.”
While Odisha, Delhi and Bengal have imposed restrictions on Chhath Puja celebrations, including large congregation of people and mass bathing at river banks and ghats, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have issued Covid-19 guidelines to be followed by the devotees.