Even as the Uttarakhand government has called off the Kanwar Yatra this year, the police are gearing up to stop Kanwariyas at state border as officials believe that despite the ban on entry, large crowds may still try to enter Haridwar in a bid to collect Ganga Jal (holy water from the Ganga River).
The neighbouring Uttar Pradesh hasn’t called off the Kanwar yatra which draws massive crowds each year. The Supreme Court on Friday asked Uttar Pradesh to reconsider its decision on holding the yatra. Meanwhile, the Central government told the Supreme Court that the movement of Kanwariyas for bringing Ganga Jal from Haridwar to Shiv temples of their choice should not be allowed in view of Covid-19. The Centre also suggested that Uttarakhand should make Ganga Jal available through tankers at designated locations.
Reacting to the suggestion, chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said government authorities will follow instructions passed on to them.
Prior to Covid, the Shiv Bhakts — Kanwariyas from UP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab would visit Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri to collect Ganga Jal. The director-general of police Ashok Kumar told News18 that police are in touch with the neighbouring states. Kumar said they had already discussed the option to provide Ganga Jal in tankers.
“We can fill as many as 200 or even 500 tankers with Ganga Jal if the concerned police station from neighbouring state or Kanwar Sangh approaches them," Kumar said.
The top police official added he has held a video conference with the superintendent of police of various districts regarding police personnel deployment at the border of the state. The police are also expecting additional help from the Rapid Action Force (RAF).
Uttarakhand shares its border with Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. The police in bordering districts of Bijnor, Saharanpur, Muzzafarnagar, Meerut is in constant touch with the Haridwar police. Despite a ban on the movement of Kanwariyas last year, they tried to enter Haridwar through lesser-known routes via villages.
Beyond Haridwar, the Ganga River flows in the plains of western UP. As entry of Kanwariyas is banned in Haridwar, Gar Mukteshwar, another pilgrimage spot just 60 kms from Delhi and located on the Ganga bank in western UP, is all set to receive crowds. The place finds mention in the Mahabharata.