Row after Hindu religious leader insults Mahatma Gandhi, hails Godse

Police have filed an FIR charging Kalicharan Maharaj for spreading hatred between classes.

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A 'Dharam Sansad' held in Raipur, Chhattisgarh on Sunday has sparked outrage after Hindu religious leader Kalicharan Maharaj praised Nathuram Godse for killing Mahatma Gandhi and stated that people should elect a strong Hindu leader as the country's head to defend the religion.

The saint went on to use an abusive word against Mahatma Gandhi at his speech at a dharma Sansad (religious assembly), prompting criticism from the ruling Congress.

Raipur Dharam Sansad took place just days after a religious gathering in Haridwar made news for provocative and communal speeches delivered by Hindu religious leaders against minority communities.

Kalicharan Maharaj, speaking at the Dharam Sansad in Raipur on Sunday, claimed that "the purpose of Islam is to capture the nation through politics."

"I salute Nathuram Godse for killing Gandhi," he added.

Saint Kalicharan, speaking on the second day of a two-day event said, "What is our primary responsibility? To save religion. We should elect a strong Hindu king (leader) in the government, regardless of the political party he or she represents. Our women are good and civilised, and they do not vote (in elections)."

"Islam's purpose is to gain control over the country through politics. They had captured in 1947 right in front of our eyes (referring to partition)... They had already taken control of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Through politics, they seized control of Bangladesh and Pakistan... I admire Nathuram Godse for killing Gandhi," he remarked.

"Police have warned us not to conduct a bhagwa (saffron) procession in Muslim-dominated areas. It is not the police's fault. The police are the slaves of the government. The government is a slave of the ruler. As a result, until there is a staunch Hindu king (leader), the police will not support."

Following the insulting remarks by the Hindu leader, police in Chhattisgarh have filed an FIR charging Kalicharan Maharaj of spreading hatred between classes.

"A case was registered against Kalicharan on Sunday night at Tikrapara police station based on the complaint of Congress leader Pramod Dubey under Indian Penal Code sections 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred, or ill-will between classes) and 294 (obscene acts)," a police official said.

Political reaction

Former Congress MLA, Mahant Ramsundar Das who is the chairman of the Chhattisgarh Gau Seva Ayog, reacted vehemently to Kalicharan Maharaj's remarks. He said that 'such insulting words should not be used against the Father of the Nation, who gave everything for the country's freedom.'

"The event's purpose has strayed from its original intent...Mahatma Gandhi, who gave up everything for independence, is being branded a traitor. I wanted to ask the organiser why he didn't complain when such words were used to insult the nation's father," he said at the event.

Das walked away from the podium, saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm dissociating myself from this event."

The event's organiser, Neelkanth Tripathi also expressed discontent with Kalicharan's statement.

Kalicharan's statement was denounced by Sushil Anand Shukla, the head of the state Congress communication wing. "It is highly offensive to use such derogatory language against Mahatma Gandhi. First, Kalicharan must prove that he is a saint," Shukla remarked.

"Truth and non-violence can never be defeated by liars and violent people," Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik tweeted (in Hindi) in response to remarks made against Mahatma Gandhi. "Bapu e are ashamed, your murderers are alive.

Meanwhile, AAP's Sanjay Singh slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking, "Will Modi ji do something or will he just ‘not forgive them in his heart’?"