Lucknow: The Samajwadi Party (SP) has distanced itself from its MLC Swami Prasad Maurya’s comment on Ramcharitmanas even as the latter sought to wriggle out of the controversy by saying he only found some parts of the text objectionable.
Meanwhile, an FIR was lodged Tuesday in Lucknow against Maurya under IPC sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 298 (uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound), 504 (intentional insult), 505 (2) (statement creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes) and 153A (promoting enmity between groups).
The complaint was lodged by Shivendra Mishra, a resident of Lucknow’s Aishbagh, who has claimed that Maurya’s statement hurt believers of Hinduism and there was anger among the people.
The ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh, as well as Hindutva groups like the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, have hit back at Maurya for his comments. This came days after Bihar Education Minister Chandra Shekhar made similar remarks on the Ramcharitmanas, a Hindu text based on the Ramayana.
On Sunday, Maurya had said that some portions of Ramcharitmanas were objectionable as they were anti-backward and called for either their removal or banning of the whole book. “I have serious objections to some portions of the book… Earlier too, I have said this on public platforms and I am saying this again, no religion has the right to abuse anyone. The government should take cognisance of the objectionable portion and remove it (from the book),” he told a news channel.
Reciting a chaupayi from the text, Maurya had said that its meaning was hurtful towards the shudras and women. The chaupayi reads: “Dhol gavaar shudra pashu naari, sakal tadhna ke adhikari.” It has long been debated for allegedly being casteist and anti-women.
All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) chief Waman Meshram had said way back in 2005 that the text says that OBCs and women should be beaten up.
Explaining the chaupayi, Maurya said, “One can be exceptionally wise, intellectual and knowledgeable but still not be respected since he is a shudra? Is this religion?”
“Aise dharm ka satyanash ho, jo hamaara satyaanaash chahta hai (May such a religion, which wants to annihilate us, face annihilation itself),” he added.
Commenting on the controversy surrounding Bageshwar Dham religious preacher Dheerendra Shastri, who allegedly left an event recently when challenged to display the miraculous powers he claims to possess, Maurya said it was unfortunate that the so-called saviours of religion were undoing the progress made by social reformers because of whom the country is moving on the path of scientific temper.
As the ruling BJP attacked Maurya, SP MLA from Lucknow Central Ravidas Mehrotra Monday said Maurya’s statement was his personal opinion.
“This is not the stand of the party. Politicians should speak on inflation, unemployment, corruption, development and issues of the public and should refrain from speaking on a religious text. The meaning of tadhna in the chaupayi mentioned by Maurya is to judge or identify. He has made the statement out of lack of knowledge…The national president (of SP) has taken cognisance of the matter and will soon take appropriate action,” he said.
Action sought against Maurya
Maurya’s comments attracted a sharp attack from the BJP, the party he left last year to join the SP. BJP state president Bhupendra Chaudhary called him “mentally disturbed”. Earlier in the day, UP minister Nand Gopal Nandi said Maurya was himself bakwaas and was on his way to turning Samajwadi Party into Samaptawadi Party (a party heading towards its end).
BJP’s Aparna Yadav, who is the daughter-in-law of SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, too attacked Maurya for the statement. “…I don’t think that it is right for any politician to make such a comment and having such thoughts for Ramcharitmanas shows low mentality…I think he has not read Ramcharitmanas and not lived it,” she said.
Led by its spokesperson Shishir Chaturvedi, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha resorted to a protest against Maurya at Lucknow’s Civil hospital chauraha and demanded his arrest. The outfit members raised slogans and also made a complaint at the Hazratganj police station against him. The protesters later marched towards the CM’s residence, demanding action against Maurya.
Lucknow resident Awadhesh Tiwari has also given a complaint to the Thakurganj police station of Lucknow alleging that Maurya’s statement had hurt the faith of the entire Hindu community along with his and such statements will increase enmity based on caste, religion and hurt the feelings of women. Tiwari’s complaint has further asked the police to lodge an FIR and arrest Maurya.
As Maurya diluted his stand Sunday evening, he recited another chaupayi from Ramcharitmanas and said that in the quatrain, specific castes including Teli, Kumhar, Shupaj, Kirat, Kol, Kalwar, who are all followers of Hinduism, have been called adham- which means neech (lowly).
“This word hurts the feelings of people belonging to this caste. Dhol, gavaar shudra pashu naari, sakal tadhna ke adhikari. Shudras, pashu (animals) and naari (women)…women and shudras have been put in the same category as animals. All should be punished. What sin has been committed by the shudras? … All the Dalit, backwards and adivasis of the country fall in this shudra category when they are all followers of Hinduism,” he said.
He wondered which religion “gives a provision for punishing the people belonging to the same religion.”
“I think that religion is meant for the welfare and respect of humans and for humanity but if someone plays with the respect of humans and humanity, it can’t be religion. I think that religion is equal for all but from a chaupayi of Tulsidas, it becomes clear that it means different things for different people,” he further said.
He added that he doesn’t consider Ramcharitmanas as a religious text as Tulsidas has himself said that he wrote it for swantaa-sukhaye (his own happiness).
This report has been updated to reflect that one FIR has been lodged against Swami Prasad Maurya. The other two are complaints. The error is regretted.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)