Pandas of Mathura burned effigies of CM Yogi Adityanath for calling them anti-social elements who needed to be brought in check.
Vrindavann, 2017.05.09 (Siraj Qureshi, IT, Edited by Vishakha Saxena): Angry Hindu priests of Mathura-Vrindavan known as ‘Pandas’ are demanding an apology from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his statement calling the Agra ‘Lapkas’ and Mathura ‘Pandas’ anti-social elements who needed to be brought in check.
The chief minister made his comments during a visit to Agra this week.
Pandas of Mathura burned effigies of CM Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday and expressed strong opposition against any government move to control their hereditary profession. The priests demanded an apology from Adityanath for making the Pandas look like anti-social elements in his statement.
Talking to India Today, Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber Secretary Vishal Sharma said the word ‘Lapka’, however derogatory it may seem to outsiders, is a term used for unregistered salesmen and hawkers active in Agra. They try to pick up tourists as they arrive in Agra and get them to buy services and handicrafts, which are notoriously overpriced and sometimes highly substandard. The products also include a hefty commission from the service provider or handicrafts business to the so-called ‘Lapkas’.
Of late, Lapkas have become highly notorious for harassing tourists, which can tarnish the image of not just Agra, but the whole nation, before tourists.
The Mathura Pandas, however, are indulged in a hereditary profession of providing assistance to Hindus in conducting religious rites in the ancient city of Lord Krishna, argued Sharma. Although the forcefully coercive practices of the Pandas may appear somewhat like the ‘Lapkas’ of Agra, it was still a religious matter and the Chief Minister could have done well by avoiding a comparison between the two, he said.
The Akhil Bhartiya Tirth Purohit Mahasabha held a protest in Mahavan, Mathura on Tuesday and burned an effigy of Adityanath. Purohit Mahasabha National Vice President Naveen Nagar said the statement by CM Yogi was highly insulting to the entire Panda community and demanded that the government change its decision to interfere in their activities.
He said that the Pandas do not harass devotees and merely follow a tradition prevelant for centuries, and that they have even been mentioned in the documents related to Shivaji.
Nagar said that if the CM does not take back his decision by May 10, the Panda community will hold a nation-wide protest against him and show its unity by not voting for the Bhartitya Janata Party in the 2019 parliamentary elections. He said Brahmins are already devoid of any form of reservation and are barely earning their livelihood through religious activities.
“Now CM Yogi wants to snatch away the only means of livelihood from Brahmins — on which they have a birthright since the civilization began — and this will not be accepted at any cost,” he said.
Social activist Rajkumar Nagrath said the Panda community should support chief minister Yogi’s step as it will only serve to improve the image of the Panda community in Mathura-Vrindavan and elsewhere, in the long term.