Kedarnath Dham: Why Former Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat Needs To Be Heard
Former Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has been keeping a low profile following protests by a section of the priests over Chardham Devasthanam Board, but he needs to be heard.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a sculpture of Adi Guru Shankaracharya in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand today (5 November). He offered prayers at the Kedarnath Temple, performed 'aarti' at the jyotirlinga and offered prayers to the eighth-century seer, who had attained moksha at Kedarnath. This was Modi's fifth visit to Kedarnath Temple as Prime Minister.
Four of these five visits to Kedarnath were during the tenure of former chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat. Twice in October 2017 during the opening and closing of the Kedarnath Dham, once in November 2018, once in 2019, when Prime Minister Modi mediated at the caves in Kedarnath after a successful campaign to the Lok Sabha polls.
Rawat accompanied Prime Minister Modi to Kedarnath during these visits as chief minister.
On 2 November, Rawat had to face humiliation at that very dham in his own state. He faced heat while he arrived in Kedarnath to offer prayers. Several priests at the dham expressed anger on his arrival, showed the former chief minister black flags and shouted slogans against him. Rawat was forced to return. He was not even allowed to offer prayers. Rawat left with hands folded. For the treatment he received, Rawat kept his reactions respectful and dignified. Prime Minister Modi’s visit came three days later amid reports that the priests could mark his visit with agitations.
On 5 November, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated key infrastructure projects worth Rs 400 crore. These include retaining wall aasthapath and ghats at river Saraswati, the Mandakini retaining wall aasthapath, houses for teerth purohits, and a bridge at Garud Chatti on river Mandakini. Prime Minister Modi said in his speech that many people raised doubts on his initiatives towards reconstruction in Kedardham and Kedarpuri, but his inner voice said that Kedarpuri will rise again. He added that his belief in Baba Kedar and Adi Shankaracharya made it possible for him to rise up to his own determination for the reconstruction in Kedarpuri.
During the three visits that took place in Rawat's tenure as chief minister of the hill state, Prime Minister Modi announced the initiatives or inspected the progress in initiatives taken by him towards the reconstruction in Kedarnath. In his speech in Kedarnath after the unveiling of these initiatives, Prime Minister Modi said that tourism will strengthen in Uttarakhand in the coming years as infrastructure is built and upgraded. These initiatives progressed during the current ‘double-engine sarkar’ in Uttarakhand — led until earlier this year by Rawat himself.
On 2 November, the priests were agitating against the Chardham Devasthanam Board. The board was created through legislation during Rawat's tenure. The perception among the priests is that the board is an infringement of their traditional rights over the temples. The Republic website says in a report: "We have come to the end of our patience on Devasthanam Board now. We were advised to remain patient at our meeting with Dhami on 11 September and we were following him. But we cannot remain silent anymore."
Rawat spoke to reporters after the incident. A report in the Hindustan Times has quoted him as saying: “Whatever happened yesterday (Monday) is not allowed by a civilised society… the kind of slogans that were raised… were not the ones that unite people… they were not right.”
The same report further quotes Rawat as saying: “There are some people who are into this due to political reasons… but some are into it due to their vested interests… and some due to mere carelessness...”.
Rawat, himself a devotee and a resident of Uttarakhand, reportedly added that the sentiments of Hindu devotees coming to Char Dham from across the world, should be respected. “What they want should be respected. So I have said this that formation of Char Dham Board has been the most progressive decision in the 20-year history of the state,” he is quoted to have said.
Rawat reportedly made another statement. He is quoted to have said: “It should be clearly understood that there are 51 more temples under Char Dham Devasthanam Board, apart from the four Char Dham shrines. There are issues related to the maintenance of these 51 temples. The priests and managers of these 51 temples are not opposing the Board. But their voice is not being highlighted. Only those who are protesting are being heard.”
On 5 November, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami and Rawat welcomed Prime Minister Modi on his arrival in the state.
However, it seemed that the heat he faced from a section of the priests on 2 November compelled Rawat to remain distant from the main dais where Prime Minister Modi made his speech even as other leaders from the BJP, including former chief minister Teerath Singh Rawat and minister Harak Singh Rawat were seen at the dais. Prime Minister Modi gave special mentions to the Rawal community of priests and their contributions to the ethos of the Kedarnath Dham and their support and warmth to the pilgrims and devotees visiting the jyotirlinga.
Even as Bollywood stars and leaders from other political parties from Uttarakhand and other states came in news for visits to the Kedarnath Dham, Rawat, a former chief minister who worked towards the region, saw the Kedarnath Temple remaining out of the bounds for himself. This unfortunate ouster of the devotee chief minister from a temple of his faith will remain bigger news than his exit from the top post in the state.
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