Supreme Court asks UP to reconsider allowing Kanwar Yatra
The Supreme Court of India today asked the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider its decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra in the state in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The top court said the health and the right to life of citizens is the highest priority. Earlier this week, the UP government had allowed the pilgrimage to take place even as Uttarakhand suspended it.
'Health of citizens of India is paramount'
"We are of prima facie view that it concerns all of us and is at the heart of the fundamental right to life," Justice RF Nariman said today. "The health of citizenry of India and right to life is paramount, all other sentiments whether be religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right," the judge added. The next hearing is on Monday, July 19.
SC says it will pass order if UP doesn't obey
The Supreme Court said it will be forced to pass an order in this regard if the UP government fails to reconsider its decision. "We can give you one more opportunity to consider holding Yatra physically at all. This or else we pass an order...Either you reconsider to have it at all or we deliver," it reportedly said.
Centre also opposed the movement of devotees
The central government, meanwhile, came up with a balanced approach. In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court earlier in the day, the Centre said state governments should not allow the movement of devotees. They should instead develop a system to make available the holy water from Ganga river at nearby temples in adherence to all COVID-19 protocols.
'States must ensure distribution of Gangajal'
"This is an age-old custom and considering religious sentiments, states must develop a system to make holy Gangajal available through tankers. States must ensure distribution of Gangajal amongst devotees should follow social distancing, adhering to all protocols," the Centre told the court.
UP government said the Yatra would be 'symbolic'
During the hearing, the UP government said only fully vaccinated people would be given permission to participate in the pilgrimage. "The UP Disaster Management Authority discussed this issue and said those who undertake Yatra must be fully vaccinated," UP government's lawyer CS Vaidyanathan told the court. In response, Justice Nariman said, "UP cannot go ahead with physical Yatra."
UP had allowed the Yatra, Uttarakhand suspended it
On Tuesday, the UP government had said it would allow the Kanwar Yatra to take place from July 25 with lesser number of people and COVID-19 protocols in place. However, the government of the neighboring Uttarakhand decided to cancel the pilgrimage. "Even the God will not want people to die," Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said about the decision.
What is the Kanwar Yatra?
Each year, around 30 million (three crore) devotees of Lord Shiva from several North Indian states travel to the city of Haridwar. They collect water from the Ganga river there and later offer that at Shiva temples in their respective areas. People from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh participate in the fortnight-long pilgrimage.
India's coronavirus situation
India had faced the world's worst coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, reporting lakhs of cases and thousands of deaths daily. Experts said the massive surge in cases was partially triggered by political and religious gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela. Even though the situation has since improved, experts have warned that a third wave could hit India as early as next month.