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Kumbh lesson for Harvard

Lucknow, April 23: Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav today left for Harvard University which has invited him to explain through a presentation how the Kumbh Mela, one of the biggest religious congregation of the world, was managed by his government.

Akhilesh has for company his cabinet colleague Azam Khan. Both of them will tell an audience of nearly 200 scholars and students on Friday how a mega tent city spread over 6,000 acres on the banks of the Ganga and Yamuna in Allahabad was created early this year for the Kumbh Mela.

The chief minister and Khan are being accompanied by a 10-member delegation of state officials who were responsible for managing the nearly 200 million pilgrims for over two months, starting January.

The university had sent an invite to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister last month.

Akhilesh would be on a week’s tour and will be the key speaker at the South Asia Institute at the Harvard University, where the topic of discussion will be “Harvard without borders: mapping the Kumbh Mela”. Wife Dimple is accompanying the chief minister.

It was learnt that the chief minister had requisitioned four experts to prepare four separate presentations. Akhilesh will select the best for his Harvard speech. Minority welfare minister Khan who was chairperson of the organising committee for the mela will be the other speaker.

An official said in conforming with the secular image of the Samajwadi Party, Akhilesh had selected Khan, who belongs to a different religious community, to organise the Hindu festival. This is why when 38 people were killed in a stampede at Allahabad station during the mela and Khan offered to resign, the chief minister refused to accept it. “This, the world must know,” the official added.

At Harvard, the focus will be on the Kumbh legacy through the ages: from earlier times till the era of the techno-driven generation and the expertise that the administration has honed over the years in running the world’s biggest religious congregation.

“We did our job in Kumbh. The world now wants to know how the biggest religious congregation on Earth was managed. We will share our experience with the august audience in Harvard. It is a privilege,” chief secretary Javed Osmani said before leaving for the US with the chief minister.

In Harvard’s invite to scholars for the programme on April 26, Akhilesh has been introduced as “Hon’ble chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He was elected as the youngest chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh.”

The workshop will have 26 participants, including Diana Eck, a Fredric Wertham professor of law and psychiatry at the Harvard Divinity School. Eck had led a 50-member team of Harvard scholars to the Kumbh Mela this year and documented it for two weeks.