Varanasi stands on the edge again over idol immersion in Ganga

By Siddhant Mohan,

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Nearly two years after the unrest, violence and subsequent curfew of October 2015, cities in UP are now set again to immerse the idols of gods in Ganga. Varanasi and other cities situated along Ganga are now looking towards Hindu Hriday Samrat and state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath for the resolution of idol immersion.

Like every other state, Uttar Pradesh too had a tradition of immersing the idols of Durga and other deities in the river. But in 2014, Allahabad High Court ruled that immersion of idols should not be done in Ganga River across the state. The Court also gave a relaxation of one year to authorities and Puja committees to find an alternative to start immersing the idols from next season of festivals.

But the tussle between the Hindu hardliners and government started in 2015 when some groups again tried to immerse the idols in Ganga in September 2015 going against the court’s order. And it became violent on October when a group of thousands started marching towards the famous Dashashwamedh Ghat for immersing an idol of Ganesha accompanied by Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, local politicians, MLAs and some of the major saints of the city.

That time, the administration successfully suppressed the protest by applying curfews in five police station zones. In the following period, things remained calm as Puja committees immersed their id0ls in the assigned ponds and lakes assigned by the administration.

But since Yogi Adityanath took oath as chief minister in March 2017, the Puja committees, saints and Hindutva groups have lifted their heads again for getting the permission to immerse the idols into the Ganga again.

Tilak Raj Mishra, president at Central Puja committee, has started moving a petition into the Allahabad high court. The purpose of this new petition is to ask the court to allow Puja Samitis to just dip their idols into Ganga river. Mishra explains, “Hon’ble court was of the view that Ganga should not be polluted. We honour that view.

“But we are saying that let us just dip the idols into the Ganga for few seconds, then we will take it out. After the administration can do whatever it wants with the structure,” said Mishra.

Mishra cites ‘Hindu faith’ behind the use of Ganga water for idol immersion and has shown hope that with the Yogi in the state, things may ease. “We request Yogi ji to intervene into this important matter as it is the question of faith of lakhs of Hindus of the state,” he said.

Mishra has written a letter to Yogi Adityanath for an appointment for the same. One of the city’s MLA and BJP leader Ravindra Jaiswal was actively involved in the mass agitation for Idol immersion. Jaiswal had also accused the then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav of ignoring the Hindu sentiments and rituals. Now with the BJP in the state, Jaiswal has moved into a planning state to resolve the matter.

“The government and we are thinking of a way to not to pollute Ganga. And whatever our way will be, shall totally be in compliance with the court’s order,” said Jaiswal.

He added, “However, it is also a fact that we must not hurt or disturb the Hindu rituals of ages.”

Jaiswal holds a different view of keeping the Ganga free of pollutants. He proposes the idol making with Ganga’s silt and soil, and use of natural colours. He also proposes the construction of a scientific committee which will check the idol and its colours before allowing them to be installed and immersed in Ganga.

However, the Ganga’s flow and other pollution agents are the factors which should be taken into consideration. Prof BD Tripathi, Ganga expert and member of State Ganga River Basin Authority said, “The argument is correct that idols made by Ganga soil and herbal colours will not harm the river even after full immersion of idols.”

“But before that authority should ensure the proper flow of Ganga. If a water body is stagnant, like right now, it will get polluted even with the bathing of the people,” added Prof Tripathi.

But Prof Tripathi also stresses that court’s order is for all kinds of idols, and believes that one should not move authoritatively against the court.

Prof Tripathi points towards the discharge of untreated industrial and domestic sewage into the Ganga. “These should also be checked to ensure Ganga’s cleanliness.”

Swami Avimukteshwaranand, a disciple of Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati, was beaten by the police in 2015 when he protested for idol immersion in Ganga. He has been one of the major faces of this movement which has come alive after Yogi’s appointment.

During assembly polls in 2017, Swami fielded two candidates labelling them as the Ganga candidates. It was retaliation against all political parties, especially Congress, that the candidates were fielded on the pretext of fighting for idol immersion in Ganga.

BJP sources are clueless of the direction in which the government or party will move regarding this issue. But as one source told us, “Party is willing to do something in this direction, but it does not want to give any assurance right now. If it does and then cannot deliver the promise, then the situation will be even worse.”

The administration is geared up again for the coming days of August and rest of the September when loads of Ganeshotsava and Durgapuja idols will be in limbo to be immersed in the ‘holy’ Ganga water. But Hindu hopes are dying as Tilak Raj Mishra says, “Yogi ji should prove if he is really Hindu Hriday Samrat or not?”