Days after the Kerala government said that it will follow the Central government guidelines in reopening places of worship, BJP leader and Union Minister of State V Muraleedharan tweeted against the move.
“The Kerala government’s decision to reopen temples despite opposition from devotees smell foul. Neither the devotees nor the temple committees demanded the opening of temples,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday evening.
The Kerala government’s decision to reopen temples despite opposition from devotees smell foul. Neither the devotees nor the temple committees demanded the opening of temples. @CMOKerala @vijayanpinarayi @BJP4Keralam @JPNadda @AmitShah @narendramodi @BJP4India— V Muraleedharan (@VMBJP) June 8, 2020
He further wrote, “What is the haste? Is this a deliberate attempt by the atheist @vijayanpinarayi Govt to denigrate devotees? Govt must heed to the voice of devotees and withdraw its decision.”
However, the decision to open places of worship including temples came from the BJP-ruled central government. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had in one of his press conferences said that the state would follow the guidelines issued by the Centre in this respect.
The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for opening restaurants, malls and places of worship, as part of the gradual lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown, was issued by the Centre last Thursday.
CM Pinarayi, who read out the guidelines in his press meet the next day, added that more relaxations were being brought in at a time when the state was seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Indian Medical Association's Kerala chapter had urged the government not to open malls or places of worship as yet. However, CM Pinarayi said that COVID-19 will be 'there with us for some time and we cannot avoid everything, but we should take precautions.’
Several worship centres across the state conveyed its decision not to start functioning immediately, considering the spike in cases. While various mosques have decided not to reopen till June 30, a section of churches will allow the faithful from Tuesday.
The famous Sabarimala and Guruvayoor temples would open, allowing restricted entry and after advanced registration, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said on Saturday.
In the Vadakkunathan temple in Thrissur, the famous Thrissur Pooram festival was cancelled earlier this year with only the basic rituals allowed, due to the COVID-19 situation. The temple too was disinfected on Monday, the eve of its reopening.
However, the ancient Sree Padmanabha Swamy shrine in Thiruvananthapuram reversed its initial decision and postponed public darshan to June 30. Several other temples, including those under the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Sivagiri Mutt, have also decided to remain closed for devotees till the month end.
Cleaning up operations were also held in several temples across the state which are to open in the state on Tuesday, after over two and a half months of coronavirus induced lockdown. However, the BJP and Hindu Aikya Vedi hit out at the state government, alleging that it was aimed at bringing in more revenue to the state government's coffers. Instead of opening the temples in 'haste', the state government should provide financial help to the shrines and its employees in view of the pandemic, BJP state president K Surendran said.
The state government said that those opposing the move had earlier wanted devotees to be allowed. Reacting to the allegation, Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the state government decided to open the shrines as per the Centre's guidelines.
"Not only of the temples, we welcome the decision of other places of worship not to open. The decision was taken by them as they understood the situation. Kerala decided to open religious places as per the Centre's direction," he said.
Those who are now against opening the temples had earlier clamoured for allowing devotees. "The Hindu Aikya Vedi has backed off from their earlier stand," he said.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which administers 1,248 shrines, including the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, would open them adhering to the government's guidelines, President N Vasu said.
Dismissing the allegation about revenue being the motive behind reopening temples, he said the decision was taken keeping in mind the needs of the devotees.