The present-day government of India has received a lot of criticism because of the necessity that it has been placing on establishing temples and propagating Hindutva agendas. Earlier this year, the foundation for the Ayodhya temple was also inaugurated by the PM amid the massive COVID-19 surge.
However, there have also been religious processions that were banned by the respective state governments to keep the pandemic precautions intact. Vel Yatra is one such procession that is being planned in Tamil Nadu.
However, it has been criticised for not being conceived from a spiritual interest, but for emanating from party politics and political propaganda.
What Is Vel Yatra?
Vel Yatra, or Vetrivel Yatra, is going to be a month-long procession that would give reverence to the six abodes of Lord Murugan in Tamil Nadu. It has been planned to start from Tiruttani on November 6 and end at Tiruchendur on December 6.
Lord Murugan is a very popular Dravidian God who is worshipped by people from all walks of life in Tamil Nadu.
However, a Chennai-based activist, P Senthil Kumar, approached the Madras High Court to ban the same as he suggested that it would cause communal disharmony and disrupt COVID-19 regulations. He believes that since December 6 is the day when Babri Masjid was demolished, the rally would cause religious rifts.
What Does BJP Argue?
The BJP state president is arguing that opposition parties are against the yatra because they’re afraid it would stir politics in Tamil Nadu. BJP has never been able to win the state, which has been ruled for a long time by Dravidian parties such as DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and AIADMK (All India Anna Munnetra Kazhagam).
Today’s meeting in Tirupur, Udumalpet and Madathukulam assembly constituency segments. The focus was on taking our Hon. PM’s scheme to the common man & also a preparation meeting for our Vel Yatra scheduled from Nov 6th. @Murugan_TNBJP @KesavaVinayakan @CTRavi_BJP @blsanthosh pic.twitter.com/YfnQ8sv2Cw
— K.Annamalai (@annamalai_k) November 1, 2020
The general secretary of BJP, Professor R Srinivasan, said in an interview that the political narrative of Tamil Nadu has been that of “Anti-Hindu.” He claims that there have been a lot of “Hate Hindu” campaigns in the state that have disrespected Hinduism.
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The Vel Yatra was planned in response to one such comment by a YouTube channel named Karuppar Kootam, which insulted the God Kanda Shashti.
Reviewed the arrangements made for vel yatra in Ranipet dt, vellore dt and Thirupathur dt to day… pic.twitter.com/DPrL9h2rsr
— K.T.Raghavan (@KTRaghavanBJP) November 3, 2020
He also mentioned that since they are a political organisation, they will be gaining political mileage through ideological conviction and not through a bribe for votes. However, in an ironic turn, he criticised left politics for mixing up politics with religion in their recent dismissal of the text, Manusmriti.
What Does The Opposition Argue?
The main argument remains that at a time when the pandemic is still prevalent, such a procession would have drastic effects on the handling of COVID-19 cases. Kanimimozhi, the secretary of the women’s wing of DMK, tweeted questioning the government whether it would make Tamil the national language and give importance to it.
— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) November 4, 2020
Dravidian movements in Tamil Nadu were against the imposition of Hindi as the national language and there were huge protests when it happened briefly in the 1960s.
However, critics argue that it would be difficult for BJP to find a stake in the 2021 assembly elections as the state has always rejected national parties. In fact, the party was mocked on social media in August for making a ‘mockery’ of the Vel pooja.
TN Govt should n't allow velyatra which is going to be held on Nov-06 by BJP. This will lead to religious based hatred politics and may cause communal violence. @CMOTamilNadu @BJP4TamilNadu pic.twitter.com/4dq75MOuCX
— Thol. Thirumavalavan (@thirumaofficial) October 31, 2020
A senior journalist claims that the party aims to not just win votes, but also revive Hindu nationalism in the state.
As of now, the Tamil Nadu government has informed Madras HC that it has rejected the procession by citing COVID-19 as the reason.
Madras HC disposes of the PILs filed to ban the Vel Yatra by BJP by directing the government to take a decision in accordance with the prevailing pandemic situation and the representation of the petitioner Senthil Kumar. 1/n
— Savukku_Shankar (@savukku) November 5, 2020
However, the question about the state of Indian politics remains the same – where does the boundary between religious freedom and political allegiance stop? Why can’t governments be more civil about the pandemic situation and keep religious issues at bay to deal with a COVID-19 pandemic that has been sabotaging common lives?
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