Former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi on Friday waded into the controversy over the Ramcharitmanas, which had been sparked by Bihar education minister Chandrashekhar Yadav.
“I have always held that Lord Rama is an imaginary figure and not a historical one. I am not the first one to have said so. Similar views have been expressed by scholars such as Rahul Sankrityayan and Lokmanya Tilak. But as they were Brahmins, nobody took exception. When I say it, people have problems,” Manjhi said.
"We should ponder why Valmiki is never revered like Tulsidas"
“Even if we go by the myth, Ravana does come across as far more well-versed in karma kanda (rituals) than Rama. We should ponder why is it that Valmiki, who is credited with having penned the oldest Ramayana, is never revered like Tulsidas (author of Ramcharitmanas),” he said.
“I hold that the Ramcharitmanas is a beautiful literary work and contains many good things. However, it must be purged of the stuff that condones social discrimination,” the minister said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in opposition in the state, had predictably expressed outrage over the comments of the minister, who belongs to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
However, the row does not show signs of dying down.
Leaders on both sides agree that the RJD leader had deftly tried to play the caste card to blunt the surge of Hindutva, with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections next year and the assembly polls in 2025.
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