New Delhi: The row over Udhayanidhi Stalin’s “eradicate Sanatan Dharma” remark escalated on Monday with the senior BJP leaders and Union ministers intensifying its attack against the opposition bloc INDIA, asking it if the recent Mumbai meeting was to target the Hindu religion and the Congress saying that it respects all religions but others have the freedom to express their views.
In his address at a meeting of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association in Chennai on Saturday, DMK leader Udhayanidhi likened Sanatan Dharma to coronavirus, malaria and dengue and said such things should not be opposed but destroyed.
While AICC general secretary K C Venugopal asserted that the party ideology of respecting all religions was very clear, some other Congress leaders expressed different views with Karan Singh condemning Udhayanidhi’s comments.
Attacking the opposition bloc INDIA, the BJP questioned the silence of its leaders on the issue and accused the alliance of being against the Hindu religion.
Also, a petition was filed by Muzaffarpur-based advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha before a court in Bihar against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin and his son Udayanidhi, alleging that the remarks have hurt Hindu sentiments.
Ojha, known for his petitions against political bigwigs and other celebrities, has sought the trial of the Tamil Nadu CM and his son, who is also a cabinet minister, under sections of the Indian Penal Code. The matter has been posted for hearing on September 14.
Responding to a query on the row at a press conference here, Venugopal said while the Congress’ stand is clear, every other political party has the freedom to express its own view.
“Actually, our view is very clear – ‘Sarvadharma Sambhav’ (equal respect to all religions) is the Congress ideology. But, you have to understand that every political party has its own freedom to tell their views,” he said.
“We are respecting everybody’s beliefs,” the Congress leader said.
Reacting to the controversy, Karnataka minister and Congress leader Priyank Kharge said any religion that does not give equal rights is not a religion and “is as good as a disease”.
“Any religion that does not promote equality, any religion that doesn’t ensure that you have the dignity of being a human being is not a religion, according to me. So it is as good as a disease,” Priyank, who is the son of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, said.
Terming the DMK leader’s statement as “preposterous” and “most unfortunate”, former Union minister Karan Singh said,”Thiru Udhayanidhi’s preposterous statement that Sanatan Dharma should be eradicated is most unfortunate. Crores of people in this country follow, to a lesser or greater extent the tenets of Sanatan Dharma.” “Besides, the greatest Sanatan Dharma temples in the world are in Tamil Nadu – in Thanjavur, in Srirangam, in Thiruvannamalai, in Chidambaram, in Madurai, in Suchindram, in Rameshwaram and many more. It is shocking that a responsible politician should make this kind of a totally unacceptable statement. I have the highest regard for the magnificent Tamil culture but I take strong objection to the statement made by Thiru Udhayanidhi,” Singh said in a statement.
Several Union ministers, including Rajnath Singh, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Prahlad Patel, Dharmendra Pradhan and Anurag Thakur took on the opposition alliance and asked it not to play with Hindu sentiments.
Singh hit out at the opposition over the comments, wondering why Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ashok Gehlot are “silent” on the issue.
Addressing a public meeting at Ramdevra in Jaisalmer on the launch of the third round of the BJP’s Parivartan Yatra in Rajasthan, Singh said the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a part of the INDIA bloc, has hurt Sanatan Dharma and the Congress leaders are “silent” on the issue.
“INDIA bloc members should apologise for the insult to Sanatan Dharma or the country won’t forgive them,” he said.
“What Udhayanidhi Stalin has said is shocking and shameful”, former Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said, noting that the son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has repeated his remarks.
Prasad also attacked Congress MP Karti Chidambaram for supporting Udhayanidhi.
“Why are opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee silent? Are you playing with Hindu sentiments for votes? They should know that hundreds of years of Islamic rule could not exterminate Sanatan Dharma and British imperialism could not dilute it,” Prasad told reporters.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is a declared Sanatani, he added.
Attacking opposition parties, Meghwal asked the Congress if the INDIA bloc had met in Mumbai to finalise its agenda against Sanatan Dharma and how to finish it off across the country.
“Is this your ‘mohabbat ki dukan’ (shop to spread the love),” he asked and accused Congress leader Venugopal of spewing venom against the religion.
Patel alleged that the attack on Sanatan Dharma was part of the conspiracy decided on during the opposition parties’ meeting in Mumbai.
Thakur alleged that the INDIA alliance was stooping to “politics of polarisation”.
Pradhan said the leaders of the ‘ghamandia gath bandhan’ (arrogant alliance) seem to be competing with each other to “abuse Indian civilisation, its core belief and Hindu dharma”.
He demanded that the opposition parties’ INDIA bloc, especially the Congress, clarify if abusing Hindus and hurting “India’s majority community” is their definition of freedom of expression.
Union Minister and BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje demanded that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister should immediately sack Udhayanidhi.
Hitting out at the BJP, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi accused it of showing “fake concern” over Sanatan Dharma for its politics and called it hypocrisy.
“Sanatan Dharma stands for eternal truth – the way to live life- the conscience & being. Sanatanis have long withstood attacks by invaders to end their identity yet they have not just survived but thrived. The country’s bedrock, which is linked to Sanatan Dharm, has been inclusiveness of all faiths and identities. Anyone making derogatory comments against it is ignorant of what it stands for,” she said on X.
“Also, the fake concern shown by BJP over Sanatan Dharma for their politics exposes their sick hypocrisy while they are brutally lathi charging sanatanis who are fighting for their rights in Maharashtra…,” she said.
Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya said the BJP is marketing the word ‘Sanatan’ and they are playing with the sentiments of the people in the name of religion.
Reacting to Udhayanidhi Stalin’s remarks, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she has a lot of regard for Tamil people and M K Stalin.
“Every religion has its separate sentiments. India is about ‘unity in diversity’ which is our origin. We should not be involved in any matter which might hurt a section of people,” she said.
AAP leader Sanjay Singh slammed the BJP, alleging that it has insulted the Hindu religion in the past.
“What about those who steal donations in the name of Ram, Yogi Adityanath talking about Bajrangbali as Dalit and ascribing caste to a god, is that not an insult of Hinduism,” Singh added.