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Ram references pit BJP against BJP

Lucknow, Nov. 27: For once, BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh have been wrong-footed on Ram.

As their livid partymen in Madhya Pradesh stalled Assembly proceedings over the distribution of the book Ramayana ke Mahapatra, which they say has derogatory references to Ram, the author claimed he had written it after intimating the then BJP government in Uttar Pradesh headed by Rajnath Singh.

Moreover, it is selling openly in Narendra Modi’s Ahmedabad, Delhi as well as in Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and other cities of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is a partner in the ruling coalition. “I don’t know what the fuss is about,” says M.A. Sant, whose book was published by Lucknow’s Dalit Today Publications in April.

The retired IAS officer is surprised that the BJP and other Hindutva outfits were enraged that the book was distributed at the recent International Conference of Buddhists in Bhopal.

“During 1998-2002, eight books were published and each time I informed the state governments headed by Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh in accordance with the code of conduct for civil servants,” Sant says.

He points out that no court or state government had found anything objectionable in them. “The RSS and VHP headquarters in Nagpur and Delhi, respectively, as well as Union ministers M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti and Arun Shourie were sent copies of the publications for their comments and reaction.”

The former bureaucrat sees the Madhya Pradesh BJP’s demand for criminal action against him as “a political stunt” and says he has informed the secretariat of chief minister Digvijay Singh about the facts.

Ramayana ke Mahapatra and Mahabharat ke Mahapatra formed part of his two earlier books, Bharatiya Samvidhan Banam Valmiki Ramayana and Bharatiya Samvidhan Banam Mahabharat published in 1999.

Other books by Sant — who is now a member (administration) of the State Public Services Tribunal — include Bharatiya Samvidhan Banam Manusmriti, Bharatiya Samvidhan Banam Geeta and Bharatiya Samvidhan Banam Ram Charit Manas.

More than 12,000 copies of these books have been sold. Even the report of the Constitution Review Commission mentions them, Sant says.

“If anyone can point even a single factual mistake or anything objectionable, I will quit my job as well as my writing.”

If the author is sticking to his guns, the Uttar Pradesh BJP is fumbling for words to explain how the books were published under party rule. “We will find out how it happened and then react on the books or the reaction against it in Madhya Pradesh,” says state unit chief Vinay Katiyar.

VHP and Bajrang Dal activists in the state are equally in the dark about what prompted their counterparts in Madhya Pradesh to stir up trouble.

“We have not studied the book but if it contains anything derogatory to Hindu deities, we will ask the government to ban the book and demand an apology from the author and the publishers,” they say.

But neither the author nor the publisher is willing to give in. “I am ready for a debate. But if they want to muzzle my voice, I am prepared to fight,” says Sant.

According to him, the books merely quote from Hindu religious scriptures and point out how the actions of some mythological heroes were against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. “I am myself a Hindu who wants Hindu society to rise above caste hierarchies and to remove its weaknesses so that the nation progresses,” he asserts.

Sant is a Jatav, a Scheduled Caste. His son is married to a Brahmin and his daughter has also opted for inter-caste marriage.

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