West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced ten days of lockdown in August but later reduced the days to seven after keeping in mind the Hindu and Muslim festivals of Raksha Bandhan, Bakri Eid, amongst others apart from occasions like Independence day too. The lockdown is seen as a way to break the COVID-19 virus chain in the state, which has seen 20,631 active cases and 1629 deaths as of Saturday.
The bone of contention however still is the 5th of August when a lockdown is called across West Bengal and right-wing activists Hindu Jagran Manch have written to Mamata to reconsider the date which happens to be the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. BJP too had questioned the lockdown on 5th August.
The letter by Hindu Jagran Manch to Mamata begins by congratulating her for taking into account religious aspects while declaring a complete lockdown in the state. However, only Eid al-Adha on 1st August being kept outside the lockdown date has been mentioned in the letter, not any other Hindu festival. “We presume that it has only been a matter of factual overlooking on your part that on 5th August 2020, the auspicious event of ‘Foundation Stone Laying’ ceremony is going to be observed in Ayodhya at the proposed site of Shri Ram Mandir. Madam if you are aware of the sensitivity of the millions of Hindu people in your state regarding the said issue,” reads the letter signed by Nabendu Kumar Bandhopadhyay, secretary Administrative Relation, Hindu Jagran Mancha, South Bengal.
The letter speaks about the history behind the Ram Mandir. “On the eve of the auspicious occasion going to be held on 5th August 2020, crores of Hindus will certainly be offering prayers and pujas at various temples, river banks and other community centres in the state, needless to mention by following appropriate social distancing. Inclusion of such a sacred day in the lockdown calendar will certainly bring about too much mental pain and agony for our numerous Hindu brothers and sisters who are definitely not going to be able to offer puja or to observe various rituals as they wish to, due to such proposed lockdown,” the letter further reads.
The letter has also been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. The state administration as of now will go ahead with the lockdown on Wednesday, after changing the lockdown dates three times on a single day. Withdrawing the 5th August lockdown will appease the right-wing activists, however, the purpose of breaking the virus chain seems far from being a reality and the state government is already grappling with handling the healthcare system with rising COVID-19 cases in the state.