In what is being seen as Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s strategic response to the opposition on the “Ramcharitmanas controversy”;, the state government has decided to hold the Akhand Ramayan Path on Ashtami and Navami of the Chaitra Navratri period commencing on March 22. The festivities end on the ninth day, which is also Ram Navami. Orders in this regard have been issued to all district magistrates across the state on March 10.
This is the first time in almost six years of Yogi Adityanath’s run as chief minister that such specific instructions for organising Ramayan Path have been issued. Observers say this clearly indicates the CM wishes to send out a larger political message apart from his personal devotion and religious reverence to Navratri and Lord Ram.
The circular dated March 10 addressed to all commissioners and district magistrates was issued by Mukesh Meshram, the principal secretary of UP government’s department of culture. It instructs the officials to organise committees with the common people at the district, block and village levels to carry out the religious activities at selected temples from March 22.
The order, a copy of which has been accessed by News18, mentions that the pious days of Navratri are of great religious significance when devotees in large numbers worship nine different incarnations of Goddess Durga. Hence, the state government wants to make this experience of devotion more memorable for the people.
The order also says that the government wishes to increase the participation of women and girls in the religious observances and plans to organise mass religious events like the “path” (chanting) of “Durga stuti” (prayers) at different Durga temples and major Shaktipeeths across the state.
Point number 3 in the circular makes for interesting reading. It says, “In order to further strengthen the human, social and national values and to ensure their further spread it is instructed to hold the Akhand Ramayan Path at all the levels from district to Tehsil and the blocks.” District officials have been asked to ensure Ramayana Path on both Ashtami, March 29, and Ramnavmi, March 30.
Each district has also been sanctioned one lakh rupees for organising such events. Orders for bringing up hoardings and banners advertising these efforts of the government around temples have also been issued.
JUST DEVOTION OR A WHIFF OF POLITICS?
UP deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya denied charges that the move was politically motivated. “Uttar Pradesh is the land of Lord Ram. Any event to uphold the legacy of Lord Ram should be welcomed. What is wrong if we seek Goddess Durga’s blessings for the universal welfare of mankind?” he said.
The opposition, especially the Samajwadi Party, which has been accused by the BJP of fuelling attempts to slam the Ramcharitmanas as being anti-Backward and anti-Dalit, seems to be caught in a bind. Some of its leaders have endorsed the government’s move, but with some caveats.
SP president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, welcoming the Yogi government’s, but also added that the amount of money allocated for each district was insignificant and it should be raised to Rs 10 crore.
BJP’s Muslim face and former minister Mohsin Raza was quick to hit back. “What the SP is saying now is nothing but nonsense. When Akhilesh was the chief minister, not a single penny was given for places like Ayodhya, Kashi, and Mathura,” he said. “The opposition is now trying to cover up by making absurd demands after it has been exposed on the Ramcharitmanas issue.”
MOVE AFTER YOGI SLAMMED OPPOSITION IN VIDHAN SABHA
Sources in the government told News18 that this decision of organising Akhand Ramayan Path during Navratri was taken recently following Yogi Adityanath’s strong speech on the issue from the floor of the Vidhan Sabha.
When a section of backward caste leaders of the Samajwadi Party recently tried to build up OBC sentiment by targeting the Ramcharitmanas, the BJP was not too eager to engage. BJP leaders say the latest step is the most befitting counter to the opposition’s move.
The BJP had given the responsibility to find a response to CM Yogi Adityanath, who is also the head priest of Gorakhnath Peeth in Gorakhpur. There could have been no better leader to counter the SP on the Ramcharitmanas issue than Yogi himself, say party leaders. Yogi had then chosen to break his silence during the recently concluded Vidhan Sabha session.
Tearing into the opposition, the UP CM had said that “the opposition, especially the Samajwadi Party, doesn’t realise the contribution of Goswami Tulsidas who had written the Ramcharitmanas in the 16th century.” Hailing Tulsidas as a crusader against the caste system and someone who attempted to revive Hindu pride, he also said “that by insulting the Manas, the opposition is insulting millions of those who have great faith in the text.”
Now, this decision to recite the very same Ramcharitmanas is clearly the BJP’s aggressive reply to the opposition, say observers. They argue that probably after the initial days of dilemma over the issue, the BJP and Yogi Adityanath have regained their belief that it is the name of Lord Ram and the ideology of Hindutva that have helped them dilute the strong caste consciousness in the state and Lord Ram will help their build-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, an electoral battle before which the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya is also all set to be inaugurated.
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