Mumbai, Aug 30 (IANS): On the day of Janmashtami, the opposition BJP in Maharashtra staged a statewide 'shankhnaad' protest demanding reopening of temples, even as the ruling ally Congress slammed it for resorting to 'religion and temple politics.
Hordes BJP activists, along with some temple priests and commoners, carried out noisy demonstrations and raised slogans, accusing Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for his alleged 'anti-Hindu' stance.
The agitations were held outside temples in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Solapur and Kolhapur, led by state BJP leaders who rang bells, blew conches and clanged cymbals to highlight their cause.
The protesters slammed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, raised slogans, carried black placards and posters, and accused the state government of deliberately trampling upon peoples' religious sentiments by keeping temples and other places of worship shut for nearly two years now.
Hitting back at the BJP, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the party is not adhering to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's directives on maintaining Covid-19 protocols.
"The BJP people are 'super-spreaders'. They are blatantly violating the Covid rules by this agitation, many leaders including (state BJP President) Chandrakant Patil are not wearing masks," said Sawant.
He accused the BJP of not only "insulting the Hindu religion", but having absolutely no concern for the "lives of devotees" by such irresponsible actions and playing 'temple politics'.
As the state emerges from the second wave of the pandemic, the government is not willing to take any risks and has banned all crowded festivals like 'Dahi-Handi' on Tuesday or the 'Ganeshotsav' starting next week.
Sawant also referred to the circular issued by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asking the state government to impose curbs on mega-crowd puller festivals in view of the potential threat of a third Covid wave.
In view of the cautionary from the Centre and the recommendations of the state Covid task force, the government has decided not to allow massive 'Dahi-Handi' celebrations, while Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has warned that even the 'Jan Ashirwad Yatras' could lead to a surge in Covid cases.
Some BJP activists alleged that while the shutters are downed on temples, other places of worship like mosques or churches are allowed to function as the MVA government wants to appease minorities. They also threatened to forcibly enter temples.
Addressing the agitators in Pune, Patil demanded to know the logic behind keeping temples closed while opening up bars and restaurants, while another ex-minister, Sudhir Mungantiwar, urged that those who are fully vaccinated should be allowed to visit the places of worship.