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Volunteers carry idols of Ganesha in a crane for immersion on the 3rd day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in the Hussain Sagar Lake, in Hyderabad, on September 12, 2021. Image Credit: Style Photo Service

Hyderabad: Telangana High Court’s categorical orders that the Ganesh idols made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) cannot be allowed to be immersed in Hussain Sagar lake has flared up into a major row with the Hindu organisations, including Ganesh Utsav Samiti (Celebration Committee), rejecting the court order.

A division bench of the High Court, headed by acting Chief Justice MS Ramachandra Rao, rejected the petition of the state government seeking a review of an earlier order of the High Court banning immersion of PoP idols on the grounds of polluting the lake.

The issue has been a subject of a legal battle and heated debate for more than a week evoking a strong reactions from the right wing Hindu groups.

“This court is not inclined to modify its order because you created the circumstances with your own action”, the division bench said in its order. “The High Court respects all religious sentiments. But no scripture says that one should pray to the Ganesh idols made of PoP and synthetic colors and that the idols must be immersed in Hussain Sagar alone”.

Striking a strident note, Ganesh Utsav Samiti general secretary Bhagwant Rao said that the idols will be immersed in Hussain Sagar lake at any cost as was the tradition for the last 43 years.

With the religious outfits turning on the heat, the state government has decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Soon after the High Court order Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao convened a review meeting with ministers and officials in which it was decided to approach the apex court.

Meanwhile, the High Court has left the state government officials in the throes of confusion as devotees have already started immersing idols of various sizes and shapes into the lake and the police was not taking any action to enforce the court order.

General Secretary Ganesh Utsav Samiti Bhagwant Rao said that his organization will not back down an inch and will press ahead with the planned immersion of all idols in the lake.

Ganesh Utsav Samiti is a BJP controlled umbrella outfit of several right wing organizations and it oversees the annual immersion of thousands of idols in Hussain Sagar and many other lakes in and around Hyderabad.

“We will immerse the idols in Hussain Sagar at any cost. We will not care about any restrictions. High Court has issued orders to the state government and not to the Ganesh Samiti. It is for the government to see that there was no hurdle in the way of immersion”, he told the media.

“No court has right to hurt our religious sentiments. If devotees are prevented from immersion it would tantamount to undermining the fundamental rights of citizens to practice religion of their choice”, he said demanding that the government should bring an ordinance to remove the obstacles if any.

The Hussain Sagar is more than 400-year old man-made lake named after engineer Hussain Shah Wali who had built it.

The tradition of a massive centralized Ganesh procession and immersion of idols in the lake started in 1978 during the Chief Ministership of Dr M Channa Reddy and over the decades it grew into a massive annual gathering with the immersion of thousands of huge idols and participation of hundreds of thousands of people.

Bhagwant Rao said that the name of Hussain Sagar lake should have been changed when Hyderabad state was merged in India. “It should have been renamed to Vinayak Sagar”, he said.

Most of the idols installed this year were made of PoP with a height of 20 to 25 feet and the tallest of them - 57 feet high- was installed at Khairatabad.

The biggest challenge before the administration is how to ensure smooth conduct of the immersion without violating the court orders. “If we ask the organizers to immerse the idols in 25 baby ponds created in the lake, it will take one week to immerse all the idols”, a senior official of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation said.