Fewer devotees turn up as religious places reopen

Thin attendance of devotees was observed at religious places which reopened on Monday after remaining closed for around five months.

Major shrines including Dargah Hazratbal, Makdoom Sahib (RA), Dastigeer Sahib (RA) and Khankah were reopened on Sunday, but the famous shrine at Sonwar continued to remain closed for the devotees.

Vice chairman Muslim Wakf Board, Showkat Beigh, said all precautionary measures were put in place at the shrines as per the COVID19 safety guidelines.

The devotees, he said, were not allowed to enter without facemasks and sanitising their hands. “Not many devotees visited the shrines on Monday. I think people are just being cautious and want to avoid public gatherings,” Beigh said.

He said they have kept thermometers at the entrance of the shrines besides hand sanitizers. “Circles have also been drawn at shrines to implement social distancing,” he said.

He said only four to five devotees were allowed inside the shrines at a time to maintain social distancing. “At some shrines, volunteers have put banners asking the devotees to follow precautions,” he said.

Abdul Ahmad, a devotee at Dargah said: “I was very much curious to visit here again. Thank God, it was possible today. I am a regular visitor to this shrine.”

A group of devotees at Makdoom Sahib (RA) shrine said they were following COVID19 guidelines in letter and spirit.

All places of worship, including temples, mosques, and churches re-opened in accordance with SOPs, said an official.

Asking the devotees to follow the SOPs strictly, the government has made use of Aarogya Setu app by the visitors to religious places mandatory. Touching statues, idols or holy books has been forbidden.

Authorities had announced closure of all mosques and shrines in J&K in view of the outbreak of COVID-19 in March this year. Later, Islamic scholars had also appealed to people not to hold any congregational prayers in the wake of pandemic.