(Eds: Adds reax) Coimbatore, Nov 5 (PTI) The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday said it has denied permission to the BJP's month-long 'Vel Yatra', a rally covering six abodes of Lord Muruga and slated to start tomorrow, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ruling AIADMK asked its saffron ally to drop the plans to take out the rally in the interest of the people of the state.
The yatra in-charge, KS Narendran, said the party high command would be consulted before announcing the next plan of action.
The party's state unit chief L Murugan said while the BJP functionaries don't violate law, 'we won't remain silent when there is a harm to Tamil people, Hindu deity, Tamil God, Tamil culture and the Tamil language.' Hours after the state government made a submission in the Madras High Court on the matter, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said it was not 'legally' possible to permit the yatra, slated from November 6 to December 6.
'Legally it cannot be permitted. The Central and state governments have come out with rules that rallies cannot be taken out,' he said in an apparent reference to the COVID-19 protocols against large religious gatherings.
Under those provisions, 'permission cannot be given,' he said.
The BJP had announced taking out the Vel Yatra in honour of Lord Muruga, in the wake of the Kanda Sashti Kavacham controversy, where a You Tube channel had allegedly denigrated the Tamil hymn song in praise of the God.
Vel, a spear-like weapon of Lord Muruga, is worshipped by the devotees as a destroyer of evil.
The rally was scheduled to start from Tiruttani in north Tamil Nadu and end at the souther coastal temple town of Tiruchendur.
With the government making its stand clear in the high court, the BJP should drop the plans in the interest and wellbeing of the people during the pandemic times, senior AIADMK leader and state fisheries minister D Jayakaumar said.
The government was duty bound to protect the people against the dreaded infection, Jayakumar said adding the state government has declined permission for the Vel Yatra only to ensure that there was no second or third COVID-19 wave in Tamil Nadu.
He warned that law would take its own course if anyone violated the restrictions.
'The law is the same for everyone. We cannot compromise on people's health and wellbeing,' he told reporters in Chennai and pointed out that the entire world is battling against the corona crisis.
'People's support is required in this fight against the pandemic. Due to the government's effective measures, the pandemic has been contained and the virus spread is on the decline,' the minister said.
World over, medical experts have warned of the second and third wave of the coronavirus, he noted.
'Even if we anticipate this and take precautionary measures in Tamil Nadu, massive yatra like this will give room to spread of the infection among the community,' he reasoned.
To a question, he replied it would be better for the BJP if it did not insist on this yatra and give it up for now.
'Our objective is to create a coronavirus-free Tamil Nadu. Vaccine is the ultimate remedy for this. But this may take three months or go beyond a year. The government is duty bound to protect the people from the infection. We feel that this yatra is not needed at this juncture,' he said.
The minister said the ruling AIADMK was for social justice and followed the principles of its late leaders like C N Annadurai, M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa.
Meanwhile, BJP state vice president Narendran, in-charge of the yatra, said the party's Central leadership has been approached for its opinion.
'We will announce the dates soon. Like our president Murugan has already said the Vel will pounce and proceed no matter whatever hurdles come,' he said.
Earlier, opposition parties in the state had voiced concern against BJP's yatra in these pandemic times.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader and Lok Sabha member Thol Thirumavalavan, who had petitioned the state police chief against the yatra earlier, welcomed the state government move. PTI JSP NVM SA VS VS