With SC asking UP to reconsider Kanwar Yatra, state govt reiterates — ‘pilgrimage to be in accordance with COVID protocol’

While citing the looming possibility of a third wave of the COVID19 pandemic, the Supreme Court has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to call off the Kanwar Yatra. Details here.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: July 17th, 2021

The Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the Kanwar Yatra on July 14 and the next date of the hearing is on July 19.

Following the Supreme Court’s remarks, on July 16, in which it asked Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider this year’s Kanwar Yatra in the wake of the looming threat of the third wave of the COVID19, the state government has reiterated that it will continue to ensure that the pilgrimage is observed with preventive measures.

“…Given the Covid pandemic and the fear that looms over all the citizens of India of a third wave of the pandemic whether the authorities would be in a position to reconsider holding or the allowing, for compelling religious reasons, of this yatra in physical form at all,” a Supreme Court bench comprising  Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and BR Gavai told CS Vaidyanathan, senior advocate who represented the state government.

Also Read: Uttar Pradesh to allow Kanwar Yatra this year as CM Yogi Adityanath asks admin to ensure COVID guidelines

“The health of the citizenry of India and their right to “life” are paramount. All other sentiments, al beit religious, are subservient to this most basic fundamental right,” the bench added.

Uttar Pradesh govt’s affidavit to SC

As part of the proceedings, the Uttar Pradesh government  submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court which stated that it was decided in case due to compelling religious reasons, if any person still wishes to undertake the yatra, then the person should apply for permission with the authorities through the relevant registered ‘Kanwar Sangh’ of the area. 

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

“Such persons should have been fully vaccinated as well as should have a negative RTPCR test in the last three days. Further, stringent guidelines/SOPs should be laid down after consultation with the Health Department,” the affidavit stated.

The Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the Kanwar Yatra on July 14 and the next date of the hearing is on July 19. 

Also Read: COVID19 second wave: Millions of devotees pour into Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela

The Kanwar Yatra attracts an estimated 30 million pilgrims from the states in the northern and northwestern parts of the country. These pilgrims head to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, where they collect water from the Ganga and take it back home to offer it to temples of Lord Shiva.

With these millions of pilgrims that throng Haridwar on the first day of Shravan (Sawan) month, the Kanwar Yatra this year is being feared to be a potential super-spreader event that could trigger the surge in COVID19 cases across the country. This year, the first day of the yatra is on July 25. 

‘Kanwar Yatra in accordance with COVID-19 protocol’

In a press statement issued yesterday on July 16, the Uttar Pradesh government stated that it has instructed the administration to establish a conversation with the Kanwar associations in view of the pandemic so that the right decision can be taken regarding the organisation of the pilgrimage. 

“The Government is putting all the efforts to make sure that religious sentiments are not harmed and devotees who participate in the traditional journey can also be protected amid the pandemic,” it read.

“In this regard, the government is already taking a lot of vigilance ahead of the Kanwar Yatra, which will start from July 25, 2021, the first day of the month of Sawan. Necessary guidelines have also been issued for the administration regarding smooth conduct of Yatra,” the statement added.

It also informed that last year, the Kanwar associations had suspended the Kanwar Yatra themselves after talks with the government. 

Uttarakhand cancelled the Kanwar Yatra

Meanwhile, the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand has cancelled this year’s Kanwar Yatra on July 13. Newly appointed Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami stated on July 16 that he was “little disturbed” by the CM Adityanath’s decision to allow the pilgrimage. 

Pushkar Singh Dhami

“For us, people’s lives and saving them is of primary concern. For that, we have taken a tough decision with God as our witness. We are sure that God will not be pleased if because of our laxity, lives are lost. That is why we have stopped (the pilgrimage),” Dhami was quoted as saying. 

Puri’s Rath Yatra underway — sans devotees

The Rath Jatra at the Lord Jagannath’s temple in Odisha’s Puri commenced on July 12 but the devotees are barred from thronging the procession in the wake of the COVID situation.

Jagannath Yatra being observed under COVID19 precautions. Photo: Twitter/MumukshuSavitri

The Supreme Court, on July 6, had allowed the procession to take place in Puri under strict preventive measures. 

The yatra is only attended by the temple priests who have been confirmed to be COVID19 negative and have been administered both doses of the vaccine.