Protests banned within 200 m of Kedarnath shrine; won’t budge, say priests

The priests said they will not move till the chief minister comes to talk to them and will intensify the protest.
The priests have been protesting against the formation of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board since June. (HT Photo)
The priests have been protesting against the formation of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board since June. (HT Photo)
Updated on Sep 17, 2020 10:00 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Dehradun | BySuparna Roy

The Uttarakhand government on Thursday prohibited any protests within 200 metre of Kedarnath shrine after yatris complained about agitation by priests making them uncomfortable. The priests have been protesting against the formation of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board since June.

A statement released by Rudraprayag district administration on Thursday stated, “…under section 15 (5) (6) of Devasthanam Management Act, orders have been passed to comply with the said order prohibiting any sit-in demonstration in the 200-meter radius of the shrine and the main access road from the Valley Bridge to the temple.”

Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board, said that the decision was taken after complaints by yatris that they were disturbed with the priests protesting outside the shrine.

“We got a few complaints from yatris that priests are sitting outside the shrine bare chested and protesting, making the yatris feel uncomfortable. We had also learnt that the priests tried to convince yatris to join their protest. Representatives from the Board have tried talking to the priests along with attempts from the district administration also, but they are not budging. Now, we have said that they are free to carry out their protests, but not in the temple premises,” said Raman.

He added that if the priests do not comply with the orders then it can also lead to imprisonment and will have criminal implications also.

Vinod Shukla, president of Kedarnath Tirtha Purohit Mahasabha, said, “We have been protesting since months now and the government has not paid heed to our demands. The government has released this order, which goes against our rights, we have been holding a peaceful protest. Now, our protest will continue and we will intensify it with support from people of the whole Kedarnath valley and we will not move till the chief minister comes to talk to us.”

When asked whether the district administration or members of the Board approached them for talks, Shukla denied any meeting from the Board’s side.

On June 21, The Uttarakhand high court (HC) dismissed the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rajya Sabha (RS) member Subramanian Swamy against the state government’s takeover of the Char Dhams and 51 other shrines through the formation of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board.

The court ruled that the ownership of the temple properties would vest in Char Dham shrines and power of the Board would be confined only to the administration and management of the properties.

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