Bhide calls Manu great, CM Devendra Fadnavis orders probe
Right-wing activist courts controversy after calling author of Manusmriti greater that state's revered saints Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar
Controversial right-wing activist Sambhaji Bhide will now be probed for hurting the sentiments of the followers of Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar. He has called the ancient figure, Manu, who had scripted the Manusmriti, greater than the two saints who are revered across Maharashtra and beyond for their spiritual and social teachings.
The matter came up for debate in the legislative assembly on Monday when the enraged Opposition raised the issue. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said Bhide's speech would be verified and action taken against him if he was found to have violated laws.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar and Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil questioned the government over its protection of the activist who has been named in the Koregaon Bhima riots. Bhide has not been arrested in the riots despite repeated demands. The government has been saying that there is no evidence against the leader who heads the organisation Shivprathisthan Hindustan.
Bhide had compared the three religious figures while addressing a congregation of his followers during a Wari (a spiritual procession that is taken to a popular deity, Vitthal, in Pandharpur every year from all parts of Maharashtra) in Pune, where the palanquins of Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar meet before heading towards Pandharpur for an annual ceremony. Pawar demanded to know the BJP government's views on Bhide's utterances and if the government really believed in the Constitution. "The Warkaris (the sect that worships Vitthal) are hurt. How can Manu, who had labelled 80% of the people as shudras (lowest in social stature), be greater than the two great saints who taught us social equality? The social reformers have trashed Manu, and the majority of the people abhor his philosophy," he said.
He said Bhide and his followers were barred from participating in the Wari because they carry weapons. "How did they go to Wari this time? Who allowed them?"
Vikhe Patil said the government should declare Manusmriti as greater than the Constitution. "Bhide is constantly breaking the law and yet he gets protected by the government. Recently, he said eating mangoes that are grown on his farm helped one have children. He should be tried under the anti-superstition law."
In response, Fadnavis said the government had no reason to follow Manusmriti. "We believe in the Constitution and run the government accordingly." He said Bhide and his followers were barred from carrying weapons to the procession but they were not banned from participating and seeking darshan. "We banned weapons at all religious processions from last year, even though your governments had been allowing it for years," he said.
11 MLCs elected unopposed
Eleven candidates were elected unopposed to the vacancies in the Maharashtra legislative council on Monday after the 12th candidate pulled out of the race. Of these, five are from BJP, two each from the Sena and Cong, and one each from NCP and PWP. BJP: Mahadev Jankar (sitting member of BJP ally RSP and Cabinet minister), Bhai Girkar (sitting), Nilay Naik, Ram Patil Ratolikar and Ramesh Narayan Patil; Congress: Sharad Ranpise (sitting), Wajahat Mirza Athar; NCP: Babajani Durrani; Shiv Sena: Anil Parab (sitting) Manisha Kayande; PWP: Jayant Patil (sitting). Withdrawn candidate: Prithviraj Deshmukh (BJP)
All boards at par?
The state education department will ensure that state board students who seek admission to self-financed courses are not done an injustice while competing with non-state boards like CBSE, IB and others. Minister Vinod Tawde said that a committee of experts would be constituted to decide on the difficulty levels of all boards so that state board students are not denied admission because of low percentage of marks. The state board exam carries 650 marks, while others have 500 marks, thus creating a disparity.
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