The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spat over spit in Ganga

Patna, Nov. 19: Little did Baba, as Shivanand Tiwary is referred to in political circles, know that his act of spitting in the Ganga on Chhath would trigger off such an unusual spat between Bihar’s political arch rivals — Janata Dal (U) and the RJD.

Offended by what the RJD described as an “act of sacrilege”, the RJD cadre led by general secretary Shyam Razak today staged a demonstration and demanded action against Tiwary for “hurting the sentiments” of lakhs of Chhath devotees. Several RJD leaders also attacked chief minister Nitish Kumar, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and road construction minister Nandkishore Yadav for their “failure to stop Tiwary from spitting in the holy river”, while they were travelling together on a steamer that day and greeting the devotees from onboard the steamer.

Tiwary described the RJD’s criticism on the issue as “a manifestation of political bankruptcy”. “Is it an issue' Lakhs of people attend the call of nature and purify themselves every morning along the river,” Tiwary said.

“Ganga is our mother. Will a mother get impure if her child urinates in her lap'”

Chief minister Nitish Kumar refused to speak on the issue while Tiwary said: “The RJD and its boss Lalu Prasad are running short of issues against the government. They are resorting to gimmickry and cheap innuendoes.”

But Razak, a confidante of Lalu Prasad, is not ready to pardon Tiwary. “We will carry out a movement against Tiwary and the ruling government for hurting the religious sensibilities of Chhath devotees. The act of spitting in the Ganga on that particular day can not be condoned.”

He also criticised the chief minister for waving hands to the devotees from the steamer rather than bowing before them according to tradition. “The chief minister and other leaders should have bowed their heads before the devotees standing on the ghats instead of waving their hands in western style,” he said.

Tiwary countered the charge saying Lalu Prasad took no action to salvage the Ganga from impurity and pollution due to release of industrial wastes in it during his reign. Moreover, he and wife Rabri Devi had abandoned the practice of going to the ghats on Chhath in the last leg of their rule and performed the puja in their home.

This is not the first time Tiwary has got into a religious controversy. Tiwary — a Brahmin — broke his janev (sacred thread) in response to Jaiprakash Narayan’s sponsored “janev todo (break the thread) movement” in 1974.

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