A day after the Trinamool Congress (TMC) condemned its Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra’s statement that Kali is a “deity who eats meat and accepts alcohol”, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded her arrest for allegedly hurting Hindu religious sentiments. Many priests and devotees on Wednesday echoed Moitra’s line and said offerings to Kali vary from place to place.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan condemned Moitra’s statement and a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against him under Section 295A (hurting religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by the Bhopal Crime Branch.
Chauhan said that Mahua Moitra’s statement hurt Hindu religious sentiments and insulting Hindu deities will not be tolerated at any cost.
Also Read | Madhya Pradesh Police arrested TMC MP Mahua Moitra for criticizing Goddess Kali
In Bengal, the BJP filed police complaints against her in Kolkata and three districts till Wednesday afternoon and threatened to go to court.
“Bengal government registered police cases against (suspended BJP leader) Nupur Sharma for Prophet Mohammed’s comments but what Moitra did is more serious. I am giving the police 10 days to arrest Moitra. If they don’t, I will go to the Calcutta High Court,” said Leader of Opposition in Bengal Assembly Suvedu Adhikari.
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Moitra made the statement at a media conference on Tuesday, referring to the controversial poster of Toronto-based Indian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai’s Kali, which shows the actor smoking a cigarette as Devi and holding an LGBTQ+ flag. Police cases were registered against Manimekalai in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh after the riots broke out.
Without commenting on the film or its poster, Moitra said individuals have the right to imagine and worship God in their own way.
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The MP said: “If you go to Sikkim, for example, when they do their puja in the morning, they offer whiskey to God. In some places in Uttar Pradesh, if you tell God that you are offering whiskey or something as prasadam (offering), he will say ‘Oh God! This is blasphemy. “
Moitra said: “Kali to me is eating meat, alcohol is embracing the Goddess. That is Kali’s version. If you go to Tarapeeth all sadhus smoke. That is the version of Kali that people worship. In Hinduism, being a Kali worshipper, I am free to imagine Kali that way….. You are free to worship your God as a vegetarian. Religion should remain a personal domain.
TMC was away from Moitra on Tuesday.
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In a tweet, the party said, “The views expressed about Goddess Kali are made in her personal capacity and are not endorsed by the party in any way or form. All India Trinamool Congress strongly condemns such statements.
This drew a strong response from a section of netizens who supported what Moitra said and questioned TMC’s stand.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tried to defend Moitra, saying she was being attacked for saying what every Hindu knows. He said that methods of worship vary widely across the country. “We have reached a point where no one can say anything publicly about any aspect of religion without someone claiming to be offended,” Tharoor wrote in the tweet.
Also Read |‘His personal opinion’: Congress on Shashi Tharoor’s support for Mahua Moitra
Tarapith Temple is located in Moitra Birbhum district. It is arguably the most-visited of the Shakti Peethas – shrines dedicated to the Shakti religion – in Bengal.
Taramoy Mukherjee, president of the Tarapeeth Purohita Association, said that those who follow the tantras offer meat, fish and karana sudha (liquor) to the goddess and sacrifice animals.
Mukherjee said, “I don’t want to comment on what politicians are saying but this has been the practice for centuries in the temples of Tarapeeth and Kamaksha (in Assam). The goddess is worshiped in various forms. Those who follow the Vaishnava way of life offer sweets and fruits. It all depends on the disciple,” Mukherjee said.
At the famous Dakshineswar temple near Kolkata, where 19th-century religious icon Ramakrishna Paramahamsa worshiped Kali as the priestess of Rani Rashmani, only fish is offered to the goddess after the practice of sacrificing goats stopped long ago.
Prasoon Hazra, former trustee of Dakshineswar temple, said: “These days only fish is offered to the goddess as animal sacrifice was stopped decades ago. We have never served alcohol at Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to offer coconut water to Ma Kali. The tradition continues. Offerings vary from place to place based on tradition and religious practices.
Among those who took to social media, Bengal Congress leader Ritju Ghosal wrote a long piece on Facebook explaining the various forms of Kali as described in Hindu scriptures. “More than 3,000 years old, Tantra is the oldest form of worship,” wrote Ghosal, adding that the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, also ate meat and fish.
The political uproar continues days after the Kolkata Police issued a lookout notice in the name of Nupur Sharma, who threatened her life and sought time to appear in person at the Narkeldanga and Amherst Street police stations where the case was registered. Against her after controversial statements about the Prophet Muhammad sparked violent protests across the nation earlier this month.
Each of these police stations called Sharma twice. A lookout notice prevents a person from leaving the country.
The Bengal BJP tried to use Moitra’s comments to counter police cases against Sharma.
Moitra, who tweeted on Tuesday that she had not said anything in support of the controversial film poster or mentioned the smoking depicted in it, was unfazed by being trolled.
“Bring on the BJP! I am a worshiper of Kali. I am not afraid of anything. Not your ignorant ones. Not your goons. Not your police. And certainly not your trolls. Truth needs no backup forces,” Moitra tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
Quoting Nupur Sharma at a media conference, Moitra said: “We should not hurt sentiments. Let’s move on to what is against the law. If anyone has uttered words that directly incite violence, she should be arrested. But there should not be double standards.