New Delhi: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was stopped from visiting the Batadrava Than during his ongoing Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Assam’s Nagaon district on Monday morning.
The Congress said that Gandhi was meant to visit the birthplace of the 15th-century Vaishnavite religious leader, Srimanta Sankardev. He had been granted permission by the temple management committee earlier but was stopped in an “unprecedented move”, allegedly on “the obvious instructions of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.”
Gandhi told reporters that he was stopped from visiting while others were being allowed.
“Sri Sri Shankardev ji has presented the thinking of Assam in the best way. He is our guru, we also follow his path. When I came here, I had thought of paying obeisance here. We got the invitation on 11th, but then we were told that everyone can go, but Rahul Gandhi cannot go. Whenever I get a chance, I will go,” he said.
The Congress leader was seen asking police officials present at the site why he is not being allowed to go.
“What mistake have I done that I am not allowed inside the temple? We are trying to go to the temple. I just want to go and pay my respects. We were invited and now they are telling us that we can’t visit,” he said.
“Now the (Assam) government and Modi ji will decide when and who can visit a mandir and when they cannot,” he said.
After his convoy was stopped, Gandhi sat down on the road, along with other Congress leaders and supporters, who sang ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’.
Around 10 am, Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP from Assam’s Kaliabor, along with MLA Sibamoni Bora, visited the temple.
“As a representative of Rahul ji, I and the MLA went to the temple. All the priests said that their blessings are with Rahul Gandhi. We told the priests that Rahul ji wanted to come himself but he was told that the government was already organising some programme here and there could be some law and order issues. But when we went there, until 10 am no cultural programme was going on there. There was no law and order situation neither was there any crowd. This was a lie spread by the administration whose orders came directly from the chief minister. This is a black mark on the history of the Batadrava Than,” Gogoi told reporters.
Congress’s general secretary and media in-charge, Jairam Ramesh, said at a press conference later in the day that it has always been the Assam government’s effort to prevent Rahul Gandhi from visiting.
Referring to the consecration ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated, Ramesh said that the “Ahankaracharya” may not want want the country’s eyes to go anywhere else.
“All media channels are focusing on only one event,” he said, referring to the Ram Temple consecration ceremony.
“It is possible that the Ahakaracharya of our country does not want the country’s eyes to go elsewhere and that is why they took this decision. We sat there near the barricades for close to two hours and met different people, including women and children, who sat and sang bhajans. We only left after Gogoi and Bora returned from the Than. We could not follow our yatra’s programme today because Rahul ji did not get permission, and I apologise for that,” he said.
“This was not a last-minute decision. There was no political or electoral objective behind this. That is why from January 11 we had decided that on January 22, Rahul ji will visit the temple. We even said that only he will visit and no one else, in a police vehicle but they did not want him to go,” he added.
The yatra, in its ninth day, later resumed at 2 pm and proceeded towards Morigaon before heading to Nongpoh in Meghalaya.
On Sunday (January 21), Sarma told reporters that he had urged Gandhi to visit the Batadrava Than after the consecration ceremony in Ayodhya ended.
“It shouldn’t be like there is a competition between Ram Mandir and Batadrava Than. That is not good for Assam. So, we request that we would like it if he goes to Batadrava Than after the Ram Mandir programme is done. I would like that. Otherwise television channels will show the two in a two-window. But that two-window will go against the image of Assam. There is no competition and he should not come and create that competition. That will be sad for people of Assam,” he said.
Also, on Sunday, Bharatiya Janata Party supporters with saffron flags surrounded Gandhi’s convoy and raised slogans, and allegedly attacked Assam Congress chief Bhupen Borah as well as Ramesh’s vehicle.
Earlier, after Gandhi had referred to the Sarma-led government as the “most corrupt”, first information report was filed against him for “deviating” from the yatra route.
This article was first published on The Wire on January 22, 2024.