Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Swami Prasad Maurya on Sunday alleged that certain portions of the Ramcharitmanas 'insult' a large section of society on the basis of caste and said these should be 'banned.' Though the party distanced itself from Maurya's remark, saying it was his personal comments, the BJP in Uttar Pradesh demanded that he apologise and take back his statement.
Maurya, who is considered a prominent OBC leader in the state, said, "Religion is meant for the welfare of humanity and for strengthening it." "If there is any insult to a section of society due to certain lines in the Ramcharitmanas on the basis of 'jaati', 'varn' and 'varg', then it is certainly not 'dharma', it is 'adharma'. There are certain lines in which names of castes such as 'teli' and 'kumhaar' are mentioned," he said.
Maurya claimed that "the feelings of lakhs of people hailing from these castes have been hurt." "Similarly, a 'chaupaai' (verse) says that women should be punished. This amounts to hurting the feelings of women, who constitute half of the population," he said in his comments on the Ramcharitmanas, a popular version of the Ramayana penned by poet Tulsidas. "If a debate on Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas is an insult... then why are religious leaders not worried about the insult to SCs, STs, OBCs and women. Are SCs, STs, OBCs and (a large number of) women not Hindus?" Maurya, who had quit the BJP to join the SP ahead of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, asked.
He demanded that "the objectionable portions of the Ramcharitmanas that insult on the basis of 'jaati', 'varn' and 'varg' should be banned".
Earlier this month, Bihar Education Minister and RJD leader Chandra Shekhar landed in a controversy after he alleged that certain verses of the Ramcharitmanas promoted social discrimination. On Maurya's remarks, SP spokesperson Fakhrul Hasan said, "The Samajwadi Party respects all religions and traditions." "The statement made by Swami Prasad Maurya is his personal comments, and it has nothing to do with the SP. The SP raises its voice for the youth, unemployed and women," he said.
Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary said, "(SP chief) Akhilesh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav, Dimple Yadav and Ramgopal Yadav should give an answer. "Now, Swami Prasad Maurya is making desperate efforts to become a big leader (in the SP), but that reservation is not towards him, it is towards the (Yadav) family. The SP had worked to hamper our religious activities," he said.
Sharpening his attack on Maurya, Chaudhary said, "Such statements could be made by only a 'vikshipt' (mentally disturbed person). The SP has to decide whether the statement is of Swami Prasad Maurya or that of the party." "The history of the SP is that it had always worked to impose a ban on our religious events and religious occasions. Maurya should not have given such a statement, and he should seek an apology. He has played with the sentiments of crores of countrymen. This is condemnable," the BJP leader said.
"He should take back his statement, and if he does not do so, then the SP should initiate action against him," Chaudhary said.