Rahul Gandhi Prevented from Praying at Sankardeva Temple, Yatra Blocked in Jagiroad
NEW DELHI, Jan 22: A large crowd wielding saffron flags gathered on Monday along a road blocking the route of the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi-led “Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra in Morigaon district’s Jagiroad and was earlier prevented from visiting the Sri Sri Sankardeva Satra temple in Bordua near Nagaon in Assam.
High drama prevailed in Assam’s Haiboragaon Rahul Gandhi was not allowed by authorities to visit the Satra temple. Mr Gandhi, along with other Congress leaders, was stopped at Haiboragaon and not allowed to proceed further. The former Congress chief was scheduled to pay obeisance to the local deity before resuming his Yatra on Monday.
Later a day after the Yatra was attacked allegedly by the BJP workers on Sunday in Sonitpur district, saffron flag-wielding crowd blocked the Yatra’s route on Monday in Jagiroad. “They have totally blocked the entire road… They are shouting slogans, at times some that are very communally provocative, but police have been mute spectators,” Nagaon MP Prodyut Bordoloi said.
“I spoke to the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police, and they gave me assurances. But in terms of action, I have not seen anything. They (the flag-wielding crowd) have totally blocked the road and are shouting communally provocative slogans. They are actually trying to create some problems.”
This morning, Mr Gandhi was stopped from entering the state’s well-known Batadrava Satra Temple, the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardeva, an Assamese saint and scholar from the 15th century, in Nagaon. The Congress leader registered protest by sitting on a dharna on the road in Nagaon, singing Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. Later, stopped from continuing the footmarch, Mr Gandhi held a street corner meeting in neighbouring Morigaon district.
On Sunday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had urged Mr Gandhi to reconsider the route for his ‘Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra’, citing concerns about potential clashes with the programmes to be held in the state alongside the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
During a law and order crisis all can go to the birthplace of Vaishnav saint Srimanta Sankardeva but only ‘‘Rahul Gandhi cannot go,” the Congress leader teased the BJP government. MP Gaurav Gogoi and Batadrava MLA Sibamoni Bora proceeded to the birthplace to resolve the issue. After they returned, Mr Gandhi told reporters that he believes in the philosophy of Sankardeva as ‘‘we also believe in bringing people together and not spreading hatred.
“He is like a guru to us and gives us direction. So I had thought when I came to Assam, I should offer my respects to him,” he said. Mr Gandhi said they had received an invitation to visit Sankardeva’s birthplace on January 11 but ‘‘on Sunday we were told that there is a law and order situation,” he added.
“This is strange as there is a law and order situation in the area, but Gaurav Gogoi and all can go but only Rahul Gandhi cannot go’‘, he said. “I don’t know, there may be some reasons but I will go to Batadrava when I get an opportunity. It is my belief that both Assam and entire nation should follow the path shown by Sankardeva,” he said. Mahila Congress leaders subsequently sat on a dharna to protest against denial of permission to Mr Gandhi to visit the temple. The former Congress chief also joined the dharna.
Authorities said Mr Gandhi will be allowed permission to visit the temple only at 3 p.m. Mr Gandhi questioned the police on why he was being stopped from visiting the temple. “Will PM Modi now decide who will visit a temple and when,” Mr Gandhi asked. “We do not want to create any problems, simply pray at the temple,” Mr Gandhi told the police authorities.
Tight security arrangements, deployment of a huge police force and blockade of roads was in force around the Sri Sri Sankardeva Satra temple. Barring the local MP and MLA, no Congress leader was allowed to travel beyond Haiboragaon, around 20 km from the temple spot. Even the media team was not allowed to travel beyond Haiboragaon.
Congress Seva Dal chief Lalji Desai said it was “shameful” that the Prime Minister and Assam Chief Minister were not allowing them to pray at the temple. “This is atrocious. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister will decide who will pray at what time in the country,” he said.
“Till the time the Prime Minister does pooja (in Ayodhya), no one is allowed to pray anywhere,” Mr Desai claimed. “There is no ‘loktantra‘ (democracy) here and the government will decide when people will pray at temples,” he said.
He said he had assured the local administration that Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the Yatra, would not get down from the bus and that the Yatra would pass through peacefully. “We have no intention of accosting them (the crowd),” he said but still the permission was not granted.