IBN Live reports that “the war of words over the Ram Setu degenerated into a bitter slander match on Thursday with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi calling Lord Ram a ‘drunkard’ and a ‘big lie’.
This follows calls from Lal Krishna Advani, (pictured) senior leader of Hindu nationalist opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and ex-Deputy Prime Minister, to withdraw his statement about Ram.
Advani, who has previously faced charges of provoking anti-Muslims violence in 1992, is reported to have asked Karunanidhi him to withdraw his statement about Ram, saying “people at the helm of affairs do not force contempt on others as far as religious affairs are concerned….I want the Tamil Nadu CM to withdraw his statement about Ram. I respect Karunanidhi for being an atheist. But people at the helm of affairs do not force contempt on others as far as religious affairs are concerned,”
Karunanidhi responded that he would not withdraw his statement and added provocatively that “Ram is as big a lie as big as the truth of the existence of the Ganges and the Himalayas,” adding “Even [Hindu sage] Valmiki has said that Ram was a drunkard. I urge Advani to get into a debate with me after reading Valmiki’s Ramayana.”
Further indications of the row degenerating are reports of Karunanidhi daughter Selvi’s house in Bangalore being attacked to which Karunanidhi responded the attackers “showed the culture of Ram Bhaktas (worshippers). I treat these things like a speck of dust. I welcome such opposition.”
Karunanidhi’s statements could bring about a clashes
Meanwhile A Surya Prakash writes in the Pioneer that the Indian Congress “is finding it difficult to put a lid on the controversy because of the passions that this affidavit has aroused on both sides of the political divide in the country. While the party has the ability to crack the whip and enforce a gag order within its ranks, it has no control over allies and supporting parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the two Communist parties.”
Karunanidhi’s statements “could bring about a clash of regions (North-South) and a clash of races (Aryan-Dravidian). Despite the outrage in the Hindu community, Mr Karunanidhi is showing no signs of remorse and the Communists are now springing to his defence. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has argued that non-believers are entitled to their opinion, just as believers are entitled to theirs. He is right, but before he gets carried away by his own rhetoric, he will do well to read Chapter XV of the Indian Penal Code which deals with “Offences Relating to Religion”.
Prakash adds that the Indian atheists so critical of the Ram Setu do not appear to be equally critical of other faiths. “Their rationalist instincts are in full flow when they deal with personalities and events which fall within the domain of the Hindu faith. But these instincts simply evaporate when it comes to the mythology in Christianity or Islam.”
The number of declared atheists in India is low -the 1991 Census (there has been no religion data release from the 2001 Censs) revealed just 1,782 atheists and 101 ‘nastiks‘ [people do not believe in the Vedas] in a population of 0.8 billion Indians.
Prakash argues therefore that since “Indians are a deeply religious people and a few non-believers cannot be allowed to disrupt national life through their disparaging comments about religious beliefs. Non-believers are just a handful….We must put an end to the tyranny of this micro-minority before it causes any further havoc.”
…The assault launched on Lord Ram by its friends and fellow travellers can tear the fabric of national unity because Lord Ram is not just a religious figure, but someone who is central to the idea of India.
It certainly does seem reckless and counter-productive to colour legitimate scientific reports in the Ram Satu with insulting language -language which by all accounts could earn Karunanidhi a spell in jail or a fine – turning a rational argument into a communal rift and playing into the hands of those that want to see the original report dismissed.