Kedarnath priests protest against ex-CM, force him to return from shrine

FORMER UTTARAKHAND chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on Monday faced protests from priests in Kedarnath, who showed him black flags and raised slogans, forcing him to return from the temple without offering prayers.

The priests of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamnotri dham are agitated against the Devasthanam Board Act, which was enacted during Rawat’s tenure last year. With the Act, a total of 51 temples associated with the four shrines are now governed under the Devasthanam Board, which was formed through a legislation.

The priests have been demanding rollback of the board, claiming that it has ended their traditional rights on the temples.

On Monday, Rawat was visiting Kedarnath to take the stock of the preparations for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to the temple on Friday. Soon after his arrival, the priests began shouting slogans, asking him to return. Faced with the protests, Rawat decided to leave without offering prayers.

Besides Kedarnath, markets in Yamnotri and Gangotri were also closed to express solidarity with the priests. Earlier in the day, BJP state president Madan Kaushik and minister Dhan Singh Rawat also faced protests from the teerth purohit.

The protests had led Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to constitute a committee to hear all stakeholders and find a solution. The panel has submitted its interim report to the state government.

Teerth purohit Rajesh Semwal told reporters on Monday that on September 11, the priests held a discussion with Dhami, who promised them that the board will be dissolved by October 30. But that has not happened, he said.

“We had made it clear that if the government did not dissolve the board, a massive protest will begin from November 1 in all four dhams. In that context, we appealed for a bandh and all shops were shut. If the government still does not dissolve the board, an even bigger agitation will begin,” he said.

Speaking on the incident, Congress campaign head in Uttarakhand and former chief minister Harish Rawat said the BJP was disrespecting Adi Shankaracharya and Kedarnath dham, and that is reason why its leaders were shown black flags at Kedarnath. “The people, who they used to think will always cheer for them no matter what, raised slogans of ‘go back BJP’ and protested against their former CM,” he said.

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