Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Wednesday challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party to prove that her statements describing Hindu deity Kaali as a “meat-eating and alcohol-accepting goddess” are wrong, reported NDTV.
“I challenge the BJP to prove me wrong,” she said in an interview with the news channel. “File an affidavit that this is not how goddess Kaali is worshipped.”
“If you go to Bhutan or Sikkim, for example, when they do puja, they give whiskey to their god,” the Krishnanagar MP said at an India Today conclave on Tuesday. “Now, if you go to Uttar Pradesh and say that you give whiskey to your god as prasad, they will say that is blasphemous.”
The Krishanagar MP had defended her remarks, saying that citizens across the country worship Kaali in different ways.
On Wednesday, Moitra told NDTV that within 5 km of police stations where the complaints have been filed against her, there would be a temple in which the deity is worshipped the way she had described.
On the FIR in Bhopal, she referred to Ujjain’s Kaal Bhairav temple, situated about 200 km from the Madhya Pradesh capital. Moitra said that Kali is worshipped with alcohol there.
“I ask the government in Madhya Pradesh to place on affidavit in the Jabalpur High Court that this [offering of alcohol] does not happen, [and] I will take back my words,” she told the news channel.
She also challenged the BJP government in Assam to state in an affidavit that meat is not offered in Guwahati’s Kamakhya temple.
In Tripura, Moitra said that the High Court had banned animal sacrifice in temples in 2019. She said that the BJP-led state government had then filed an appeal against the order, which is pending before the Supreme Court.
“I ask them [the Tripura government] to take it [the appeal] back,” the MP told NDTV.
She added: “The BJP is trying to impose a monolithic, patriarchal, Brahminical, North Indian idea of my religion.”
Moitra also clarified that her remarks did not have anything to do with the poster of filmmaker Leena Manimekalai’s new documentary Kaali, showing a woman deity as the goddess and smoking a cigarette. This image is set against the pride flag of the LGBTQ community. The filmmaker has been booked for hurting sentiments of Hindus in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
“I have not seen the poster, I have not seen the movie,” Moitra added. “On the live programme, I said nothing about it. I do not endorse it.”
She also said that her remarks were not meant to offend anyone.
“I am a Kaali worshipper,” Moitra said. “I am a practicing Hindu...The comments were on my own religion.”
She said that her comments have been compared to suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made disparaging remarks about Prophet Muhammad.
“In Nupur’s case, they said why Nupur, why not you,” Moitra told NDTV. “In Nupur’s case, she was talking about someone else’s religion. In my case, I am talking about my own [faith]... She [Nupur Sharma] said it to denigrate the Prophet, I said it to celebrate the goddess.”
My personal opinion: Shashi Tharoor on backing Moitra
Meanwhile, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday clarified that he supported Moitra’s statements in his personal capacity.
Tharoor issued the clarification hours after the Congress distanced itself from the Thiruvananthapuram MP’s tweets backing her.
Congress spokesperson Ragini Nayak said Tharoor’s post is his “personal opinion”, reported ANI.
“The Congress party’s clear stand is that like Gandhiji said, religion is a matter of personal faith for a person,” she added. “But we should also be careful that we don’t do do anything that hurts sentiments of a person from another religion. It is the duty of everyone to ensure that.”
In his tweets backing Moitra, Tharoor had said that he was taken aback by the attacks on the Krishnanagar MP for saying that our forms of worship vary widely across the country.
“We have reached a stage where no one can say anything publicly about any aspect of religion without someone claiming to be offended,” he had said. “It’s obvious that Mahua Moitra wasn’t trying to offend anyone. I urge everyone to lighten up and leave religion to individuals to practice privately.”