Mumbai: In a significant decision, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday said that all places of worship in the state will be thrown open to people from Monday.
Bowing before demands from various quarters, Thackeray made the formal announcement coinciding with the auspicious Diwali celebrations.
All places of worship – temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras, viharas, fire temples, etc – have been shut since early March in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.
Now, they will be reopened after following all Covid-19 protocols like crowd control, physical distancing, sanitising the premises regularly, etc, as per the SOPs to be separately issued for the purpose, said Thackeray.
Though certain other states gradually opened up the places of worship, in Maharashtra – the worst-hit by the pandemic – they remained shut to avoid further spread of the virus.
In the current calendar year, all major religious festivals like Holi, Gudi Padva, Ramzan Eid, Dahi Handi, Ganeshotsav, Navroze, Navratri, etc were celebrated by the people in their homes.
In an unprecedented development, all major organisers of the state’s biggest festival Ganeshotsav cancelled their celebrations this year, while the 250-year-old iconic Mohammed Ali Road street-food market remained shut during the holy month of Ramzan.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and other religious organisations have been staging agitations across the state, demanding that people be allowed to seek spiritual solace in places of worship.
The issue had resulted in an ugly spat between Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Thackeray which even the Centre took note of.
Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar welcomed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s decision and urged all temples and other worship places to take adequate Covid-19 precautions as mandated by the authorities.
Other political parties, prominent religious personalities, social and religious organisations wholeheartedly welcomed the state’s move and assured that all care would be exercised to prevent the spread of the virus.