The Andhra Pradesh governmentâ€™s decision to restrict Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in the state due to the COVID-19 restrictions has become a major bone of contention between political parties in the state. Based on a call by the BJP, protests were organised across districts by BJP party cadre outside officers of District Collectors and other government offices in districts. While the BJP claims the 'anti-Hindu' attitude of the Jagan Mohan Reddy government is out for all to see, the YSRCP has slammed the protests and said that the restrictions are as per the guidelines from the Union government.
On August 28, the union governmentâ€™s Home Secretary issued guidelines to Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories informing them that the CVOID-19 guidelines in place have been extended up to September 30. Ajay Bhalla, the Home Secretary wrote in his letter, â€śThe overall pandemic situation at the national level now appears to be largely stable, except for the localised spread of virus in few States. Moreover, the total number of active cases and high case positivity in some districts continues to remain a matter of concernâ€¦ State Governments/UT Administrations are further advised to take suitable measures to avoid large gatherings during the coming festive season and if required, impose local restrictions with a view to curb such large gatherings. In all crowded places, COVID Appropriate Behaviour should be strictly enforced. We need to continue focus on the five-fold strategy i.e. Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour, for effective management of COVID-19.â€ť
In a COVID-19 review meeting chaired by the CM on September 2, it was decided to continue night curfew from 11pm to 6am keeping in mind the festival season. As per the suggestion of the state health department, it was decided to limit Vinayaka Chathurti celebrations in the state to homes rather than public places. It was decided that idols cannot be installed in public places and that immersion processions should be avoided. The Chief Minister directed authorities to ensure precautionary measures are followed.
Former Andhra Pradesh BJP Chief Kanna Lakshminarayana wrote a letter to Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy demanding that the government revoke its decision regarding the restrictions. His letter read, â€śIt is ridiculous on the part of the State Government to prohibit community worship and celebrations of Vinayaka Chavithi while having permitted other places like malls, theatres, schools etc which attract huge crowds.â€ť
â€śThis decision of the State Government is undoubtedly targeted at the sentiments of majority Hindus in the state,â€ť added the letter.
BJP State General Secretary and National Vice Chairman, Youth Affairs, Vishnu Vardhan Reddy felt that the duplicity of the government has been exposed. He said, â€śChurch prayers are being allowed, Muharram festival celebrations were allowed by the government and now schools and colleges have also been reopened. Political rallies and meeting are being conducted. There was a mass gathering at the death anniversary of YSR. Doesnâ€™t COVID-19 protocol apply to such gatherings? By putting restriction on Ganesh Chathurti celebrations, the governmentâ€™s agenda has been exposed.
Responding to this allegation, Brahmin Corporation Chairman Malladi Vishnu released copies of Government Orders on restrictions imposed during Eid-ul-Azha and Muharram. He also pointed out that celebration of the annual Rottela Panduga in Nellore district was also not allowed in view of the pandemic situation.
Malladi Vishnu slammed state BJP leaders for politicising the government's decision, noting that the restrictions were imposed as per Union Home Secretary's directives in view of Covid-19 pandemic. He told reporters that the restrictions were imposed only on the public celebrations keeping the possible third wave in view, and the issue should not be politicised.
He pointed out that in order to avoid mass gatherings, the state government postponed events like the YSR Achievement awards and Teacher's Day celebrations. He said even 75th Independence Day celebrations were organised without allowing public participation in the state function. The restrictions are part of the preventive measures keeping public safety in view during the pandemic, he said, suggesting celebrations be held at home. He said that state BJP chief Somu Veerraju has been intentionally politicising the issue to mislead people and create disputes among them.
Strongly objecting to the protests demanding permission for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at public places, Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas said that BJP has been trying to instigate communal violence in the state for its vested interests.
He asked BJP leaders to protest against the guidelines released by the Union Home Ministry and try to revise those guidelines.
(With IANS inputs)