India / Reconsider decision to allow Kanwar Yatra amid COVID-19: SC to UP

Zoom News : Jul 16, 2021, 12:47 PM
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider its decision to allow Kanwar Yatra inside the state with a limited number of pilgrims and asked the government to instead consider a complete ban on the physical movement of Kanwariyas in the state. The government will have to reply by Monday on which date the case will again be heard.

A bench led by Justice RF Nariman, which took a suo moto cognisance of the case based on "alarming newspaper report", noted that the matter concerns everyone and goes at the very heart of Article 21. "The health of citizens of India and right to life is paramount. All other sentiments -- be in religious-- are subservient to this basic fundamental right," the bench noted.

The bench also mentioned the fear of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and as the Uttar Pradesh government defended the decision of holding the yatra for a few people, the bench said, "Either we can pass orders, or give you an opportunity to reconsider holding yatra physically at all."

The Uttar Pradesh government told the Apex Court that the yatra will be symbolic and only a few people will take part in it, while the solicitor general said the state government can make arrangements to make gangajal available for the devotees.

The Kanwar Yatra became a contentious issue this year after the Uttarakhand government cancelled the yatra in view of the possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the second year that the yatra remains suspended. However, the Uttar Pradesh government decided to go on with a symbolic procession of the pilgrims starting from July 25.

Kanwar Yatra is a procession of devotees of Shiva who walk barefoot with pitchers hanging from Kanwars (slings) in their shoulders. They get water from the Ganga River from sacred places mostly falling in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Then they carry the water back to their native places. The water is used for worshipping Shiv Lingams.