A Catholic priest was on Friday booked for allegedly hurting religious sentiments after he made a statement about the Maratha king Shivaji during a sermon, reported The Indian Express.
Bolmax Pereira, the parish priest of St Francis Xavier Church in Chicalim town, was booked after about 100 people, including members of Bajrang Dal and Rajput Karni Sena, protested outside a police station, demanding action.
Pereira, during his sermon, had said that Shivaji “was a national hero but not a god”, according to The Indian Express.
“We have to have a dialogue with our Hindu brethren and ask them ‘Is Shivaji your god? or a national hero’,” the priest had said. “If he is a national hero, let it be at that. Don’t make him a god. We need to understand their perspective. If we live in fear, we will not be able to rise again”.
After a clip of the sermon was shared on social media, Hindutva bodies criticised the priest for his remarks. A man identified as Kiran Naik and other residents of Mormugao city filed a police complaint on the basis of which a first information report was filed.
The FIR said that Pereira deliberately posted a video of his sermon on social media “with the intent to outrage religious feeling by making a remark on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj which insulted/provoked the religious sentiments of people of Hindu religion and followers of Shivaji”.
On Thursday, Pereira issued a statement, expressing regret about the controversy, reported India Today.
“The purpose and intent of making a mention of the great national hero and valiant warrior during the sermon was to tell devotees and viewers that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was revered by people across the country and abroad cutting across religions, castes, creed, languages,” the priest said.
He added: “Hence, attributing him to only one religion would reduce his stature and greatness among the people of other faiths.”
Pereira said that he was shocked to learn that his sermon was taken out of context to show only one part of the statement and the other part in which he praised Shivaji for his “valour and heroism wherein he protected his people and his kingdom and stood against invaders, was maliciously omitted”.
He said this was done to incite anger and create enmity between communities.
“If any individual or organisation has been hurt due to this episode and misunderstanding, I express my deepest regret and hope and pray that the long-lasting bond between communities that has existed for centuries is maintained and grows stronger,” he added.
The FIR against Pereira has been registered under sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code.