Jumping in the controversy created by Bihar education minister Chandrasekhar’s statement, former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi on Monday objected to some lines in the Hindu epic Ramcharitmanas and demand their removal.
For the uninitiated, in early January, Chandrasekhar – who belongs to Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) – raked up a controversy by demanding the removal of certain verses of the epic which is based on the life of Lord Ram.
The RJD leader’s statement has created a sharp divide within the ruling grand alliance government in Bihar, with many leaders of ally Janata Dal-United (JDU) asserting that such “unnecessary comments” will hurt the party in the next parliamentary and state elections.
Speaking to media persons in Patna, Manjhi – who heads the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HUM) – objected to a verse, which he said, demeans women.
“It (Ramayana) is a revered epic for me. Ramcharitmanas has been created from Ramayana itself. But, I have objection on some lines of it,” said the former chief minister.
He said that Ramcharitmanas’ line “nari neer neech kati dhawa” denigrates women by calling them “neech” (wretched). “Either it should be erased or those who are well-versed in Ramayana should cut it out,” he said.
Chandrasekhar and Uttar Pradesh OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya had objected to another verse for portraying “shudras” (those belonging to lower castes) in bad light.
“I am not talking about caste. But women, who are 50 per cent of the population, are being called inferior in this holy book. A pundit in Ramayana must answer this. We cannot call Ramcharitmanas bad because very good things are written in it too,” he clarified.
He further said: “There cannot be a better epic than Ramcharitmanas. But some lines should be changed.”
Several cities in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar witnessed protests against Ramcharitmanas following Chandrasekhar’s statement that claimed the holy book spreads “hatred”.
However, anti-Ramcharitmanas statements and protests also drew widespread criticism. On January 14, JDU MLC Neeraj Kumar recited the Ramcharitmanas at a Hanuman mandir in Patna’s Rajbansi Nagar as a mark of respect to the epic.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar has largely kept a distance from the controversy, maintaining that “no one should intervene in any religious matters”.