No permission for BJP to hold Vel Yatra, Tamil Nadu govt tells Madras HC

The Madras High Court dismissed two petition one seeking permission and the other seeking a ban on the yatra.
No permission for BJP to hold Vel Yatra, Tamil Nadu govt tells Madras HC
No permission for BJP to hold Vel Yatra, Tamil Nadu govt tells Madras HC

The Tamil Nadu government rejected permission for the yatra planned by the BJP. Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the Madras High Court that given the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 in the state, it is not conducive to allow large gatherings in the state. He further stated that the court and the Union Government had placed restrictions on gathering of crowds due to the ongoing pandemic till November 15 and a government order has been passed on October 31 regarding the same. The Tamil Nadu government's stance assumes political significance as the Vel Yatra is one of BJP's most prestigious events and they have been gearing up for the same for weeks.

Following this, the Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed two petitions--one asking for permission and another seeking ban of the ‘Vel Yatra’ planned by the Tamil Nadu state unit of the BJP. The court told the petitioners that they could appeal against this decision and that the state government could issue orders on whether the Vel Yatra can go on. The Vetrivel yatra, the BJP's reply to 'anti-Hindu' sentiments they allege is being propogated by a section, is tribute to Lord Muruga, a popular deity in Tamil Nadu. During the yatra, the BJP proposed to cover six abodes of Lord Murugan and will start on November 6 at Tiruttani. After covering four temples including the most famous one at Palani, the yatra is supposed to end on December 6 in Tiruchendur in Thoothukudi. 

The counsel representing BJP however argued that no specific areas were restricted and that the Centre had only advised physical distancing. The BJP also pointed out that the state government has said cases of COVID-19 have reduced. “We are not going to stay in any place during the yatra. When the government has decided to open schools and colleges it is not right to ban the yatra,” the party argued.

Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi & Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy then stated that an oral guarantee will not do and that the state government has banned large gatherings of over 100 people till November 16. The bench then disposed of both petitions.

The Vel or Vetrivel yatra has been planned by the Tamil Nadu BJP despite strong objections from opposition parties. According to the BJP, the yatra is the party's response to the 'Hate Hindu campaign' allegedly propagated by Draividan parties in the state. It draws inspiration from the Ram Janma Bhoomi movement. The Vel yatra even ends on the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri masjid. 
For the BJP, which has been slowly stirring religious sentiments to create a vote bank in the state, the yatra will be a source of political mileage.This yatra, ahead of the 2021 assembly elections, will seek to solidify scattered support the party has from what it sees as a Hindu vote bank.

The matter came to court after a Chennai resident, P Senthil Kumar, filed a petition seeking a ban on the yatra. He had argued that the  event could become a threat to maintenance of law and order in the state and could result in the spread of COVID-19. The yatra is expected to commence on November 6 and end on December 6,  the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. Opposition parties have alleged that this entire exercise is an effort to flare up communal tensions.

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