Assam CM 'urges' Rahul Gandhi not to visit Sankardeva birthplace during Ram Temple consecration

If there is a law and order problem, nothing will happen to Gandhi as he will be surrounded by security personnel but my neck is at stake: Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma
Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma
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PTI

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should avoid visiting the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardeva at Batadrava on 22 January, as there can be no competition between Lord Ram and the medieval age Vaishnav saint revered as an icon in the state.

Sarma said commandos will be deployed along sensitive routes of minority-dominated areas to be taken by Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra on 22 January, the day of the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

''We will request Rahul Gandhi not to visit Batadrava on Monday during the consecration ceremony of the Ram Temple as it will reflect Assam in the wrong light,'' the chief minister said at a press conference in Guwahati.

He can go to the satra (Vaishnavite monastery) at Batadrava after the consecration ceremony without creating "unnecessary competition which will be sad for Assam", he said.

Batadrava in Nagon district is the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1568), an Assamese saint-scholar, social-religious reformer, poet, playwright and a towering figure in the cultural and religious history of Assam in the 15th-16th centuries.

Sarma said he was pained to read a report in the national media that said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the consecration ceremony at Ayodhya, Gandhi will be present at the Batadrava satra.

"This is a wrong projection. There is no competition between Ram and Sankardeva and when the nation's focus is on Ayodhya, it should not be unnecessarily diverted to Assam. We will be grateful if he avoids going to the satra during the pran pratistha of the Ram Temple," he said.

Besides, it is not as though the satra authorities have invited him and as there are Hindus in the Congress too, the visit can be rescheduled to early morning or the evening, Sarma said.

For Monday, the Congress has chosen a route through “sensitive areas” of Morigaon, Jagiroad and Nellie, which could have been avoided, the chief minister said. "These areas are sensitive and I cannot discount any law and order situation arising and as such commandos will be deployed along sensitive routes of minority-dominated areas to be taken by Rahul Gandhi's yatra on 22 January," he said.

The reality in these areas cannot be denied and the administrations will have to monitor the situation, he said. "The apprehension is genuine and with great risk, I am allowing the yatra tomorrow. If there is a law and order problem, nothing will happen to Gandhi as he will be surrounded by security personnel but my neck is at stake. The government of India will ask me why permission was granted for the yatra on this sensitive route on Monday," Sarma said.

Nellie had witnessed a carnage during the height of the Assam agitation in 1983, when nearly 2,000 people, mostly Muslims alleged to be of Bangladeshi origin, were killed.

District commissioners and superintendents of police of these areas have been directed to increase patrolling and maintain a strict vigil, Sarma added. "Maybe nobody will come out as people of Assam have matured. But as a law enforcer, we cannot discount any possibility," he said.


He added that he was planning to visit a temple on Monday and watch the consecration ceremony in the Harijan colony, "but now I have to monitor the situation".

On denying permission to the Congress to take the yatra through Guwahati city, the chief minister said they have been only asked to avoid the main thoroughfares. "They had asked for permission at 9.30 am during school and college times. There are hospitals in the area and we cannot allow any traffic snarl during that period. If it were a Sunday, we could have allowed it," he said.

The Congress hardly gets votes in Assam and "if they create problems for the people, they will get even fewer votes", Sarma added. Regarding Gandhi attacking him and his family on corruption, the chief minister said, "Earlier, I thought he was afraid of me but now it seems he is scared of my children too who are not even in politics''.

He claimed that the yatra has so far hardly drawn much of a crowd, but in certain minority-dominated areas of lower Assam, "Muslims of Bangladeshi origin" joined the march.

"Muslim women and girls are grateful to us as we have taken several steps for their welfare which include abolition of triple talaq, measures to end polygamy and child marriage, along with setting up schools and colleges for girls in minority-dominated areas," Sarma said.

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