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For PM Modi, nationalism and religion walk side by side

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After celebrating Diwali with soldiers in Nowshera in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand and unveiled a slew of reconstruction projects.


On November 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera to celebrate Diwali next day with soldiers., Ever since he assumed office in 2014, it is an annual tradition of the Prime Minister to travel to the frontiers of India's border points on Diwali each year to bring some joy to the lives of the armed forces personnel posted at some of the remotest security check posts. Upon his arrival, he met top Army officials and other jawans, PM also paid his tributes to the soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty. PM Modi said, “I have spent each Diwali with soldiers guarding our borders. Today, I have brought along with me the blessings of crores of Indians for our soldiers here.” 

The Nowshera is located along the Line of Control in Rajouri district. Modi had last visited this sector in 2019 when he celebrated Diwali with the soldiers of the Indian Army. In 2020 as well, the Prime Minister celebrated Diwali with jawans, in Rajasthan's Jaisalmer, another border post.

While paying tribute to the heroes of Nowshera including Brigadier Usman, NaikJadunath Singh and Lt RR Rane, PM praised their role during the surgical strike and said “It fills every Indian with pride on the role this brigade played during the surgical strike.” For the record, India had conducted a surgical strike on September 29, 2016, across the Line of Control (LoC) as a response to a terrorist attack on an Army base in the Uri sector. “Many attempts were made to spread terrorism hereafter the surgical strike but they were given a befitting reply,” PM Modi said.

PM’s annual tradition

This is not the first time that PM Modi is celebrating Diwali with Army jawans. Ever since he became the Prime Minister in 2014, PM Modi has been a regular visitor to the border outposts on Diwali. Earlier, he visited states such as Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir. PM eulogized the immense contribution of armed forces and said, “Indian Armed forces are as professional as the top armed forces of the world but its human values make it distinct and extraordinary.” The Prime Minister also emphasized that Indian military power requires expansion and transformation according to the changing needs.

The Prime Minister’s visit to the union territory comes in the backdrop of a spike in violence against the civilians and security forces' encounter with terrorists which claimed the lives of the soldiers. The recent terrorist attacks in the Union territory have mostly targeted non-Kashmiri people living in the valley. According to reports, five migrant workers were among 11 civilians killed in the region last month. In Poonch's Chamrer and Nar Khas areas, at least nine soldiers, including two junior commissioned officers, were killed in an encounter on October 11 and 14, respectively. Separately, an officer and a soldier were killed in a mine blast on October 30 in Rajouri.

Earlier, Army Chief General MM Naravane arrived on a two-day visit to Jammu to review the security situation and operational preparedness. General Naravane also carried out aerial reconnaissance of the forward areas in the Jammu region. He was also briefed by commanders on the ground on the prevailing security situation along the LoC. On October 18 and 19, the Army Chief had conducted a two-day tour of the Jammu region and reviewed the ground situation and the ongoing counter-infiltration operations. During this visit, Naravane had also visited the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, where a massive operation to track down terrorists hiding in the forest areas of Mendhar, Surankote and Thanamandi is underway.

Kedarnath beckons

After sharing the festival of lights with soldiers, PM arrived at Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand on November 5, offered prayers by performing ‘Rudra Abhishek’ at Kedarnath temple and unveiled a magnificent 12-feet statue of Adi Guru Shankaracharya weighing 35 tonnes, work on which had begun in 2019. The sculpture of Shankaracharya made its journey from the workshop of sculptor Arun Yogiraj in Mysuru’s Saraswatipuram to the Samadhi sthal in Kedarnath. “AdiShankaracharya’s life was as extraordinary as it was devoted to the welfare of the common man”, PM said. This is Modi’s fifth visit to the temple as Prime Minister.

Among a slew of projects, the Prime Minister also inaugurated the rebuilt samadhi of Shankaracharya has been reconstructed after its destruction in the 2013 deluge near the Mandakini river, in the state’s Rudraprayag district. The entire reconstruction work has been undertaken under the guidance of the Prime Minister, who has constantly reviewed and monitored the progress of the project. The legend says that Adi Guru Shankaracharya, the 8th-century seer, had attained Moksha at Kedarnath.

The Kedarnath temple, regarded as one of the most important temples of Hinduism, is situated at the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Although the shrine's origins go to the Mahabharat period, the current temple was designed and constructed under the orders of AdiShankaracharya.

There was a foundation-stone laying ceremony of Kedarpuri reconstruction projects worth Rs. 130 crore, including Saraswati Retaining Wall Aasthapath and Ghats, Mandakini Retaining Wall Aasthapath, TirthPurohit Houses, and GarudChatti bridge on river Mandakini. Kedarpuri reconstruction is also considered the Prime Minister’s dream project whose progress is reviewed personally by him at regular intervals. “The Prime Minister’s vision is to develop Devbhoomi as the world’s spiritual and cultural capital where people from across the globe come for peace,” said Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

In the 2013 devastating cloud burst, a massive calamity struck Uttarakhand. While the state's mountainous region suffered devastating landslides and floods, the temple was saved even despite a huge boulder coming down the mountain. A big rock behind the temple diverted the massive floods of water coming towards the shrine.

Situated on the bank of the Mandakini River— a tributary to the Ganga— in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, Kedarnath temple is referred to as one of the holy ‘Char Dham’ which also include Yamunotri, Gangotri and Badrinath. Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Prime Minister said that the third decade of the 21st century belongs to Uttarakhand. He informed that work is going on at a fast pace on the Char Dham road project, connecting with the Char Dham highways. PM Modi’s visit to the Himalayan temple marks the completion of the first phase of reconstruction works in Kedarpuri and the beginning of the second phase.

Modi’s visit to Kedarnath assumes significance as it comes ahead of the 2022 assembly polls in the hill state. Earlier, the BJP invited sadhus and devotees to be part of the nationwide celebrations to be held at the Four Dhams, 12 Jyotirlingas and 86 prominent temples, established across the country by Shankaracharya during PM’s travels.

Days before the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha were to be out, Modi had landed in the Kedarnath shrine and meditated inside a cave in a saffron shawl. But then the amalgam of politics and religion is as old as time. Even Mahatma Gandhi had famously told Jawaharlal Nehru that separating Church from State as is the norm in the West is simply not possible in India.

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