Decision to bar distribution of 'prasad' at religious places was taken by Centre: Punjab CM

Chandigarh, Jun 8 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said the decision barring the distribution of 'prasad' at religious places was taken by the Union government, of which the SAD was an integral part.

The CM said his government had never believed in interfering with the customs and practices of any religion but was 'constrained by the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs'.

His statement came after the Golden Temple restarted its 'langar' and distributed 'prasad' among devotees as it reopened on Monday, defying the Punjab government's lockdown guidelines.

In a statement here, Singh also accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership of attempts to “mislead” people and flayed it for ‘trying to incite’ people against the state government through their 'deceptive' statements.

“How could the state government be held responsible for prohibiting ‘prasad’ distribution at gurdwaras or other places of worship when the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued the standard operating procedure (SOPs) to be followed by religious places under the directives of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs,” asked the CM.

It was the MHA that had taken the decision under the National Disaster Act to allow opening of religious places from June 8 and had subsequently asked the various central ministries to issue necessary guidelines for the same, Singh said in the statement.

As a union minister, SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal and her party must surely have been consulted before the issuance of the SOPs on the reopening of religious places with effect from June 8, quipped Singh.

Harsimrat should have put her foot down then and insisted on allowing the distribution of 'prasad', instead of protesting later and wrongly putting the blame on the state government, said Singh.

In fact, said the CM, he had already directed the state's additional chief secretary (home) to issue instructions for 'langar' in conformity with the guidelines issued by the Government of India at the gurdwaras.

He himself will be writing to the prime minister to allow the distribution of 'prasad' in religious places, he added.

The chief minister lashed out at the “brazen double standards” of the Akalis, who, according to him, were in the “habit of supporting controversial decisions of the Government of India while making the pretension of opposing the same in public”.

From the Citizenship Amendment Act legislation to the more recent ordinance on agricultural reforms, the Akali leaders, particularly Harsimrat, had been repeatedly trying to “fool” the people of Punjab with their blatant lies, said Singh.

The CM urged the Akali leader to stop playing “petty politics” in these exigent times, which required collective efforts by all, across political dispensations, to battle the crisis. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK