Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, whose presence in the 145th Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra to be taken out Friday morning in old city Ahmedabad was under clouds due to him testing Covid-19 positive, will attend the event under doctors’ advice. “We have got confirmation from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) that the CM will attend the Yatra and do the Pahind Vidhi,” said Jagannath Temple Trustee Mahendra Jha.
As per Jha, since Patel’s presence was in doubt, they had also invited Governor Acharya Devvrat to perform the Pahind vidhi ritual, traditionally performed by the CM where the leader of the state sweeps the path of the chariot of the gods before the procession begins.
On Friday, the yatra will be flagged off after the mangala aarti to be conducted by Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the temple premises.
Amid heightened tension in the backdrop of the recent terror killing in Udaipur, the Gujarat Police has been on high alert to prevent any untoward incident during the Yatra.
Several lakhs of devotees are expected to attend the 145th Rath Yatra procession, which will be taken out from Lord Jagannath Temple at Jamalpur Darwaza to Saraspur and then back to the temple, in a full-fledged manner after two years of restricted procession due to the Covid-19
Other cities of Gujarat such as Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Mehsana, Banaskantha, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Sabarkantha and Gandhinagar, among others, will also see several rath yatra processions marking “Ashadhi Beej” diwas of the Hindu calendar, which also marks the Kutchhi new year.
In a first, the state police has also roped in the Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) for the security arrangements for the yatra for which over 25,000 police and paramilitary personnel will be deployed along the nine-kilometre route.
The yearly Rath Yatra processions in Ahmedabad have had a history of communal violence during the four decades between 1960s and 90s.
On Wednesday, a high-level meet was chaired by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi and senior police officials to discuss the security arrangements ahead of the procession in Ahmedabad and other cities of Gujarat.
“Police commissioners of all four cities and superintendents of police of all districts were present in the meeting where the CM gave directions to ensure law and order and facilitate water and other necessary arrangements for the devotees expected to join the procession. In the wake of a recent incident in the neighbouring state (Rajasthan), the CM has asked police to be on high alert for maintaining law and order in the state,” read a statement issued from the Information Department, Gandhinagar.
According to police sources, Sanghavi has asked the police to keep a strict watch on social media for any instigation or attempt to disrupt law and order related to Yatra and the Udaipur incident. After the meeting, the police of at least 15 districts issued advisories Thursday asking citizens to refrain from commenting on anything instigating or rumour-mongering on social media.
“In the past two days, we have conducted over 350 peace committee meetings in localities of old city Ahmedabad to ensure harmony between communities. We are anyway on high alert and we have been preparing for the yatra for the past three months. The recent Udaipur incident will have no effect on the yatra,” RV Asari, additional commissioner of police, sector 1, Ahmedabad, told The Indian Express.
Amit Vasava, the deputy commissioner of police, Ahmedabad Cyber Crime Cell, said, “We are being vigilant on social media but no adverse impact of the Udaipur incident has been witnessed yet.”
Meanwhile, the temple trust management informed The Indian Express that a total of 18 elephants, 101 trucks with different tableaus depicting India’s culture, 30 Akhada Dal groups and 18 Bhajan Mandalis will be part of the procession. A total of 1,200 persons will be pulling the three different chariots in the procession.
“We have been requested by the Ahmedabad Police to accompany the procession of elephants. We will have teams of vets from the animal husbandry department and experts from Indroda zoo in Gandhinagar and the Junagadh forest department. The elephants are well-trained and acquainted to walk in public places. If in case any elephant is to be controlled, it can be done by another elephant,” RK Sahu, director of Kankaria Zoo, told The Indian Express.