NEW DELHI, Jan 4: The Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar faction) leader Jitendra Awhad’s remarks that Lord Ram was “a non-vegetarian” sparked a furore, with the ruling BJP on Thursday lodging a complaint against the NCP leader even as he expressed regrets if he has hurt the Hindu sentiments.
His comments had drawn widespread condemnation from the right wing as well as devotees, many of whom are making a beeline for Ayodhya ahead of the inauguration of the Ram temple on January 22. Mr Awhad, a three-term MLA from Thane’s Mumbra-Kalwa constituency, had claimed that Lord Ram belonged to the ‘bahujans’ and was a non-vegetarian contrary to popular belief.
Speaking during his party’s conclave in Shirdi on Wednesday, Mr Awhad had said “Lord Ram is ours. He belongs to the bahujans. The Ram who hunts and eats is ours, we belong to the bahujans. We follow the ideals of Ram and today we eat mutton.”
Mr Awhad’s remarks drew severe flak from the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and a number of Ayodhya seers with BJP workers beating effigies of the NCP leader in Pune and Mumbai while the ruling Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena demonstrating in Nashik. Since Wednesday many have sought legal action against the MLA, alleging that he has hurt religious sentiments. Others have hit the streets in protest.
“Look, I am telling you I did not bring my own interpretation or views into it. I did not incorporate any ideas of my own. I based my opinion on whatever is written in Valmiki Ramayana,” said the NCP leader, defending his remark at a press conference in Mumbai. “I do express regret if my words offended someone’s feelings. I did not wish to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” he said. Mr Awhad said he has an “authentic version” of the Ramayana, “written 1,800 years ago.”
He alluded the basis for his remarks (that Lord Ram was a non-vegetarian) to the 1891 translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana by M.N. Dutt besides other sources. “This book was printed in Kolkata in 1891. IIT Kanpur has even published a research paper on it. And what I said is already in the public domain,” the NCP leader added. Stressing that he did not alter or misinterpret it, he outlined the six khands (chapters) of the ancient text — Balakand, Ayodhyakand, Aranyakand, Kishkindakand, Sunderkand, and Yudhkand.
“Valmiki Ramayana has six khands. What does the 120th verse of the Ayodhya khand say? My remarks were based on the verses from Valmiki Ramayana. Please read the Valmiki Ramayana and you will know for yourself,” the NCP leader said. “Lord Ram belongs to us, Bahujans. He used to hunt and eat animals. He is a Bahujan,” Mr Awhad had said.
“They are trying to make everyone a vegetarian by giving Lord Ram’s example. But Lord Ram was not a vegetarian, he was a non-vegetarian. A person who has stayed in the forest for 14 years – where will he go to find vegetarian food?” Mr Awhad questioned quoting Ramayana.
His remarks had drawn a maelstrom protest from the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP, which gathered outside his Mumbai home and raised slogans against him on Wednesday night. Led by BJP MLA Ram Kadam, they returned on Thursday morning with a poster of Mr Awhad, which they repeatedly hit with slippers. Mr Kadam said he has filed a complaint with the police against the NCP leader.
“It is their mindset to hurt the sentiments of the Ram bhakts. However, we won’t tolerate it if they make fun of our Sanatan Dharma for votes. The realisation of a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya doesn’t seem to have gone down well with the ghamandiya (arrogant) alliance,” Mr Kadam said.
Mr Kadam, who spearheaded the attack Mr Awhad, “It is his modus operandi, his way of playing politics by mocking Hinduism and appeasing one particular community [alluding to the Muslim community]. Because of his insensitive statements, he has hurt the sentiments of crores of devotees, sadhus. He keeps making fun of Hindu faith. Why are Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray now silent?” said Mr Kadam, warning that Mr Awhad would be compelled to seek an apology for his statements. “This is all pre-planned. At a time when crores of Ram bhakts are happy that the Ram Temple has finally become a reality, this arrogant INDIA alliance with its leaders like Awhad, Sharad Pawar, Rahul Gandhi and Uddhav Thackeray are upset,” Mr Kadam said
Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teerth Kshetra chief priest, Acharya Satyendra Das, strongly refuted the claims, calling them utterly “false.” “What NCP leader Jitendra Awhad is speaking is completely false. Such a liar has no right to insult our Lord Ram. It is not written anywhere in our scriptures that Lord Ram had non-vegetarian food during his exile but that he used to have fruits. Our God was always vegetarian. He is speaking demeaning words to insult our God,” said the priest.
Meanwhile, NCP (Sharad Pawar faction) leader Rohit Pawar ticked-off his party colleague for politicising religion and provoking needless controversy rather than attacking the government on issues that really mattered. “Today, there is more need to accost the government by talking about burning issues like rising unemployment, deteriorating law and order, women’s safety, agricultural problems and social tensions rather than provoking controversy on such topics. God and religion is a matter of personal faith… no one should politicise it,” Rohit Pawar said.