A 19-year-old Muslim student from Odisha's Nayagarh district is among the 21 persons and organisations who have moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of its order staying the historic Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The apex court had on June 18 said that in the interest of public health and safety of citizens, this year's rath yatra, which was scheduled for June 23, at Puri in Odisha cannot be allowed and "Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow" it. The yatra is attended by lakhs of people from across the world.
Aftab Hossen, who moved the apex court over the rath yatra, is a final-year BA economics student at the Nayagarh Autonomous College and is now being referred to as the second Salabega of the state on social media.
Salabega was a Muslim man and a great devotee of Lord Jagannath. During the 3-km e yatra from the main shrine to the Gundicha Temple, the lord's chariot stops for a while near the grave of Salabega located on the Grand Road as a mark of respect.
Salabega, who was the son of a Mughal subedar, occupies a special place among the devotional poets of Odisha as he had devoted his life to Lord Jagannath. He lived in the first half of the 17th century.
Hossen said he has been influenced by Lord Jagannath since his childhood and that his late grandfather Multab Khan was also a devotee. The 19-year-old has filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court through his advocate P K Mohapatra.
Hossen said his grandfather had constructed a Trinath (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar) temple at Itamati in 1960. He said that he has also read several books on Lord Jagannath and developed devotion towards the 'Lord of the Universe'.
Hossen's father Imdad Hussain, mother Rashida Begum and younger brother Anmol have never opposed his worshipping the idol of Jagannath.
However, Hossen said he has not visited the 12th century shrine in Puri as he was born in a Muslim family. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri.
"I have not visited the temple as I am not allowed. I believe that I am a human being and there is one creator in the universe," he said.
With great confidence, Hossen said that "the apex court will allow holding the rath yatra once it gets to know the fact that the managing committee is in favour of conducting it on a limited scale in the absence of devotees in view of the COVID-19 pandemic".
"I am confident that the verdict of the Supreme Court on Monday will not let down the people of Odisha," he said. Hossen had on June 17 had filed a petition opposing the Odisha Vikash Parishad which sought a stay on the festival.
Later, his lawyer Mahapatra sought a modification in the order of the apex court to conduct the rath yatra only in Puri.
Besides Hossen, Jagannath Sanskriti Jana Jagaran Manch, Viswanath Das, Nituranjan Dash, Bijan Paikray, Sanjeev Kumar Chinnara, Daitapati Nijog Committee, Raghunath Gochhikar, Janardhan Pattajosi Mohapatra, Shree Jagannath Sevayat Samilanim, International Hindu Mahasangha, Shree Jagannath Sewa Santha and others, Shree Shree Abhiram Cultural Centre and others, Santanu Kumar Pradhan Abhigya and others have filed interventions in the apex court.
BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said on Sunday that he has filed an application for clarification or modification of the earlier order of the Supreme Court.
"Today I filed an application for clarification/modification of earlier order of SC and sought permission for the Holy Rath Yatra of Shri Jagannath Mahaprabhu in Puri scheduled for 23rd June. Hope all our prayers are answered by the Lord of the Universe," Patra tweeted.
The apex court had on June 18 stayed the rath yatra, which was scheduled to begin on June 23, and all activities related to the festival, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The same evening, the Odisha cabinet passed a resolution in an emergency meeting, asking the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee (SJTMC) to carry out rituals inside the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri, in accordance with the direction of the court.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday the pleas seeking recall of its order staying this year's historic Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra, attended by lakhs of people from across the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A single-judge bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat is scheduled to hear on Monday these applications. The top court's June 18 order had come on a PIL filed by an Odisha-based NGO seeking cancellation or postponement of this year's Rath Yatra.