In view of the strong reaction from the Shiv Sena and other groups, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis-led state government has withdrawn its diktat on removal of portraits of gods and goddesses from government offices and state-run schools in rural areas.
The state rural development and water conservation department had, on January 4, issued a letter to all district council offices asking them to remove the photos from their offices and the schools they run. Hindustan Times had, in its January 25 edition, reported about the order.
In his speech to Shiv Sena workers on Thursday, party chief Uddhav Thackeray severely criticised the decision, calling it a ‘fatwa’ (diktat). “It was taken unilaterally without any discussion or consultation with Shiv Sena ministers. They knew that if it was discussed in the Cabinet, the Sena ministers would have strongly opposed it,” Thackeray said, calling it a false show of secularism and questioning the transparency in the state government’s functioning.
A delegation of Shiv Sena ministers in the BJP-led Maharashtra government met Fadnavis on Friday morning and voiced their protest against the government’s order. They also demanded an action against the official who issued the orders. An officer from the department had signed the orders.
Fadnavis, however, told them the order had already been withdrawn.
The order stated such solicitation was against the constitutional provisions and the government resolutions (GRs) issued time-to-time do not allow displaying photos or performing pujas in public offices.
“We withdrew the orders by issuing a fresh letter to all chief executive officers of district councils on Wednesday evening. Although the order on removal of photos has been withdrawn, the department has clarified the GRs issued by the government on its policy of worshipping of gods of any religion stand intact. No religious solicitation is permitted,” said an official from the department.