A police case has been filed against a Hindu religious leader from Maharashtra after he allegedly insulted Mahatma Gandhi, and praised his assassin, Nathuram Godse, yesterday at a ‘dharam sansad‘, or ‘parliament of religions’, in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.
Sant Kalicharan Maharaj – whose controversial speech also led to ‘chief patron’ Mahant Ramsunder Das disowning the event and walking off stage in anger – has been charged with promoting enmity between communities after ex-Mayor Pramod Dubey registered a complaint.
The President of the ruling Congress’ state unit, Mohan Markam, has also called for a sedition case.
In his speech – clips of which have been widely circulated on social media, Kalicharan Maharaj declares that the aim of Islam is to capture the nation through politics. He also declared “Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi destroyed the country… salutations to Nathuram Godse, who killed him”.
Kalicharan Maharaj demanded people elect a “staunch Hindu leader” to “protect” Hinduism.
A furious Mahant Ramsunder Das – from Chhattisgarh’s Dudhadhari temple – was quick to protest, pointing out that Mahatma Gandhi had sacrificed his life for the country and that such abusive language could not be used at his expense.
“Mahatma Gandhi has been abused from this stage and I oppose it. This is not sanatan dharma nor should such a thing happen on a platform like a ‘parliament of religions’. I want to ask the organiser… why didn’t you raise an objection when such words were being used,” he asked.
“This country – where 30 crore Muslims live, where around 15 crore Christians live… will it become a ‘Hindu rashtra‘ if you call it so?” Mahant Das also said as he walked off stage.
“I do not belong to this event…” he declared.
The head of the ruling Congress’ communication wing, Sushil Anand Shukla, was quoted by news agency PTI as saying: “The use of abusive words against Mahatma Gandhi is highly objectionable. Kalicharan should first prove that he is a saint.”
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel was scheduled to attend the event’s closing ceremony, but he skipped the event.
This follows controversial comments from other Hindu religious leaders at two recent conclaves in Delhi and Uttarakhand’s Haridwar, where calls for “ethnic cleansing” were made.
In Haridwar, at another ‘dharam sansad‘ that was organised by Yati Narasimhanand, a religious leader who has been accused in the past of inciting violence with his incendiary speeches, there were open calls for genocide and the use of weapons against Muslims.
The events – and police inaction against the speakers – triggered a worried letter from 76 top lawyers, who wrote to Chief Justice NV Ramana, asking for action against those who made the threats.
With input from PTI