- In the midst of fears of a third Covid wave, the Supreme Court has taken suo motu cognizance of Uttar Pradesh’s decision to allow the annual Kanwar Yatra.
- The Uttar Pradesh government granted permission for the annual Kanwar Yatra to begin on July 25.
- An estimated 30 million Kanwariyas (Lord Shiva followers) travel from northern states each year.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government against its plan to allow the Kanwar Yatra to begin next week, despite the threat of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The court, which took up the matter suo motu, said that citizens were “perplexed” by the yatra’s approval at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and medical experts had warned against big gatherings and urged people to perform social distance and other Covid rules.
The Uttarakhand government suspended the Kanwar Yatra on Tuesday, citing fears of a third wave of the Covid-19 health crisis. However, Prashant Kumar, Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Director General (Law and Order), told The Indian Express that the pilgrimage will take place between July 25 and August 6.
On Wednesday, the apex court panel led by Justice RF Nariman issued a notice to the central and state governments. The matter is set to be heard on Friday.
According to Live Law, the court took up the case after reading a piece in The Indian Express on the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to hold the Kanwar Yatra despite Uttarakhand’s cancellation.
The court stated, “We are a little concerned given today’s headline in The Indian Express about the Kanwar yatra, which is expected to begin on July 25. Given the disparate viewpoints, it is essential that the Union of India’s Home Secretary comment to this news report. Given that the yatra will begin on July 25th, it is important to create a short time table.”
According to a spokesperson for the Uttar Pradesh administration, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath stated on Tuesday that only a few devotees should be permitted to participate in the pilgrimage. According to the official, the government may make negative RT-PCR test results a requirement for pilgrimage participation.
Devotees of the Hindu god Shiva participate in the pilgrimage. They collect water from the Ganga River and offer it to Shiva temples in their respective states. Kanwariyas, as these devotees are known, walk hundreds of kilometres on foot. Every year, an estimated 30 million Kanwariyas (Lord Shiva devotees) from various northern states come at Haridwar to draw water from the Ganga and offer it to Shiva temples in their respective regions.
Devotees from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh participate in the fortnight-long yatra.