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CM heads to Ayodhya in lockdown

The message of lockdown seemed to have eluded the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath ignores social distancing guidelines as he addresses the gathering in Ayodhya during the lockdown on Wednesday

Piyush Srivastava   |   Lucknow   |   Published 25.03.20, 08:39 PM

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and a crowd of 50 people attended rituals in Ayodhya on Wednesday to shift the idol of infant Ram from its makeshift tent to a temporary shrine despite the Covid-19 lockdown across the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown, telling people repeatedly not to step out of their homes. Stepping out would mean inviting the virus home, he warned. Flouting the 21-day lockdown would take the country back 21 years, Modi had stressed and asked people to draw a Lakshman Rekha outside their homes and stay inside.

But the message seemed to have eluded the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. Adityanath congratulated the gathering after the rituals, a step forward in the way towards the construction of a Ram temple.

“Shifting of the idols (of Ram, Sita and Lakshman) was the first phase of the plan and the second phase of the construction of the Ram temple was started today,” the BJP leader said at the rituals held in the temporary temple where the idols were placed.

“I congratulate the people of the state and the country on the occasion of Chaitra Shukla (Navratri). We hope that sitting on his throne, Maryada Purushottam Ram would continue showering his blessings on all of us.”

Adityanath didn’t forget to mention the coronavirus pandemic that has so far affected over 600 people in India and killed 10.

“Today the country is prepared to face a new global pandemic under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modiji. The World Health Organization and the United Nations have praised India for taking action against it. We must feel the energy to fight the menace as Maryada Purushottam Ram would give us power so that we don’t only face the situation arising out of the spread of the epidemic but also… move together in making a new India,” the mahant turned politician said.

The chief minister handed a cheque for Rs 11 lakh from the state government for the construction of the Ram temple to Champat Rai, general secretary of the Ramjanmabhoomi Tirth Kshetra Trust.

Adityanath reminded the gathering, which included trustees, government officials, security guards and mediapersons, who stood close to each other that they needed to break the virus chain.

“While following the (lockdown) limitations and the protocols set for all of us by the state and the central government to fight the pandemic, we should also assimilate the ideals of Maryada Purushottam in our lives,” he said.

Sources present at the event said some people were seen taking selfies when Adityanath was addressing the gathering.

Satyendra Das, chief priest of the makeshift temple where the Ram temple would eventually come up, said: “The new temporary temple, 250 metres east of the makeshift temple from where the idols were shifted, is bullet-proof. The devotees started paying obeisance in the temporary temple immediately after it (the idol of Ram Lalla) was installed in the presence of the chief minister.”

The temple will “remain open” despite the lockdown, Das said, adding that “local devotees could offer prayers after routine security checks”.

The local administration has blocked the entry of outsiders to all temples in the town except the makeshift shrine.

Adityanath has been staying in Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, where he is the mahant, for the past week. He had returned to state capital Lucknow on Monday and went back to the Gorakhnath temple after attending the rituals.

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