‘It’s life for Odias’: BJP’s Sambit Patra moves SC to allow Rath Yatra, hearing tomorrow
Aftab Hossen, a Muslim man from Nayagarh district of Odisha, has also filed a petition seeking modification of SC’s June 18 order.Updated: Jun 21, 2020 23:12 IST
With the world-famous Rath yatra in Puri less than 36 hours away, BJP leader Sambit Patra, who lost Lok Sabha elections from Puri last year, has joined a dozen and half other litigants in Supreme Court seeking partial modification of its June 18 stay order and allowing holding of the festival without congregation of devotees.
“Today I filled an application for clarification/modification of earlier order of SC and sought permission for the Holy Rath Yatra of Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu in Puri scheduled for 23rd June. Hope all our prayers are answered by the Lord of the Universe,” tweeted Patra after filing the intervention application.
Patra said the annual Rath Yatra is not just a festival for Odia people. “It’s life for Odias. Who are we without Rath Yatra. I hope we would be blessed by Lord Jagannath tomorrow. I would go on fast on Monday and I would request everyone in Puri to go on fast tomorrow for victory in SC tomorrow,” he said.
On June 18, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde had stayed the Rath Yatra in view of the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic after an NGO moved the court against holding the festival. The SC judgment has triggered a massive outrage in Odisha with 18 intervention applications filed to modify the order. They have been listed for a hearing in the chambers of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat on Monday.
As people of Odisha wait with bated breath over the scheduled hearing in SC tomorrow, Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati of the Govardhan Peeth alleged that there seemed to be a well-orchestrated move to stop the Rath Yatra.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Saraswati said if the Supreme Court wanted, it could have taken up for hearing the petitions filed on June 20. “The courts do remain open even on holidays if the situation warrants. The Rath Yatra is day after tomorrow and just a day remains for the big event now. That is why one is forced to view this as a well-planned project to stop the Rath Yatra altogether. The fact that it happened just a day before the summer vacations start, also proves the same,” he said in a statement.
Saraswati said in religious and spiritual matters, the supremacy of the Shankaracharya is a settled issue. “In these circumstances, the judiciary should not just get advice from us in matters of religion, but also be guided by us. I don’t want to criticise the SC, but the court did not show enough wisdom while delivering the judgment,” he said, referring to the June 18 order.
Questioning the SC observation that Lord Jagannath may not forgive if the Yatra was held during the pandemic, he asked whether the Lord would forgive if all the traditions are done away with.
Earlier on Saturday, Puri’s titular king Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb, considered as the first servitor of the Lord and also the head of the temple management committee, had written to chief minister Naveen Patnaik to hold the Rath Yatra saying not holding would hurt the religious sentiments of countless devotees around the world who watch the sacred Yatra live on TV.
“In the course of Odisha’s long history, Ratha Yatra has not been held only during attacks by Mughal forces during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, when the Lords had to be hidden in remote places. The present crisis caused by Covid pandemic, is not a situation which renders it impossible to conduct Ratha Yatra in Puri as it can be held without any congregation of general public. I request you to take appropriate steps for approaching Supreme Court for a partial modification of its June 18 order so as to permit the performance of Ratha Yatra only at Puri,” wrote Divyasingh Deb in his letter to Patnaik.
Among the several intervention applications filed in the SC seeking modification of the June 18 order, is one filed by Aftab Hossen, a Muslim man from Nayagarh district of Odisha. Hossen in his application said after the June 18 order, people of Odisha are feeling hurt and that the Court should allow the conduct of the yatra with participation only from servitors and temple police, without the general public playing a role in it. It is important to celebrate the festival as there is “scientific evidence” that the weather becomes pleasant when Lord Jagannath is brought out of the temple, Hossen said in his petition.
The construction of the three chariots is almost over with the Maharanas working overtime to finish the work. If allowed, the nine-day festival will begin on June 23 and go on for next 10 days.
Meanwhile, adding a twist to the ongoing issue, the state government on Sunday evening issued a press note saying it would take a favourable action as legally permissible when the intervention petitions are taken up for hearing before the Supreme Court on Monday.
The state government said its stand during June 18 hearing was primarily related to thousands of Rath Yatras taking place all over the State. Though the press note did not mention the Rath Yatra at Puri specifically, it said the thousands of Rath Yatras across the state in almost every gram panchayats of the State would involve lakhs of people.
“More than 5 lakh people of Odisha have returned to the State since May and are likely to complete their quarantine period by the end of June. This along with the onset of monsoon has made the Covid pandemic likely to peak in the State in June and July. Any congregation during the probable peaking period can lead to loss of lives and serious public health hazard,” it said.
On June 18, the state government had engaged senior advocate Harish Salve who had argued from London through video conference. Officials said the state government would put its best foot forward on June 22 hearing though best possible lawyers.
The Rath Yatra has continued uninterrupted since 1736. It could not take place 32 times between 1558 and 1735 due to Mughal invasions.