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“Respect All Religions”: Nitish Kumar Firefights Ramcharitmanas Controversy

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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today broke his silence on the controversy stirred by Education Minister Chandrashekhar’s remarks on some couplets of the epic ‘Ramcharitmanas’, saying the state government respects all religions and advocates for the freedom for all to follow any religion. This comes two days after one of his party colleagues lashed out at Minister Chandrashekhar, a leader from Mr Kumar’s coalition partner RJD, and asked him to either apologise or give up Hinduism.

“Our view is that no matter the religion, there should be no interference,” he said, adding that the surrounding controversy is “all nonsense”. Even the Deputy Chief Minister has reiterated this, he added.

Minister Chandrashekhar, an RJD leader, had on Tuesday claimed that the Ramcharitmanas, a poem based on the epic ‘Ramayana’, “spreads hatred in the society”. He also said that certain parts of Ramcharitmanas propagate discrimination again certain castes.

The BJP had slammed the state government over his remarks, demanding an apology. The Education Minister, however, shot back, saying it’s the BJP that should apologise for being unaware of facts.

Addressing students at the 15th convocation ceremony of Nalanda Open University on Wednesday, he had claimed that the ‘Ramcharitmanas’ and ‘Manusmriti’ divide the society.

“Why was Manusmriti burnt, because many abuses were given in it against a large section. Why was Ramcharitmanas resisted, and which part was resisted? Lower caste people were not allowed to access education, and it is said in the Ramcharitmanas that lower caste people become poisonous by getting an education as a snake becomes after drinking milk,” Chandrashekhar had said.

He has said revered Hindu texts like Manusmriti and Ramcharitmanas are against Dalits, other backward classes and women receiving education.

“Manusmriti, Ramcharitmanas, Bunch of Thoughts by Guru Golwalkar… these books are books that spread hatred. Hatred will not make the country great, love will make the country great,” he added.

On Sunday, an MLA from Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) lashed out at Chandrashekhar, saying that the comments show that his mental state is not right.

MLA Sanjeev Kumar said that the statement “is very unfortunate” as scripture teaches one a lot about our values, way of life, life of Lord Ram, and our duties. The JD(U) leader even said that the minister should either apologise or give up Hinduism.

“Chandshekhar’s remarks on Ramcharitramanas are very unfortunate. I think he doesn’t have adequte knowledge about Ramcharitramanas. Ramcharitramanas is a Hindu scripture and is deeply connected to our faith. It talks about our values, way of life, life of Lord Ram, our duties,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.

Some JD(U) leaders, to pre-empt the BJP exploiting the situation, demanded action against the leader. Those in the RJD have not taken kindly to the damage control suggestion from the coalition partner.

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, to project a united front and downplay tensions between leaders of the coalition partners, reiterated that there was a good understanding between his father Lalu Prasad, the RJD president, and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the JD(U) supremo, both of whom were “sheersh neta” (top leaders) of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ and, hence, it did not matter what others in either party said.

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