Patna: A day after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) (HAM) president, and former Bihar Chief Minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi, claimed that Ram was an imaginary figure, not a historical one, and questioned the very existence of Ram, more than half a dozen leaders of the saffron party attacked him, asking to delete Ram from his name and put 'Rakshas' instead.
Politics in the name of Ram is likely to heat up in the state.
Manjhi, a Dalit leader, on Tuesday reportedly said that “I don’t consider the Ramayana to be a true story. Nor do I think that Lord Ram was a great man or a great historical person. I don’t consider the Ramayana story to be true”. Manjhi, who belongs to the Dalit Mushahar community, one of the most marginalised and backward sections, is known for opposing aggressive Hindutva politics of BJP in recent years.
Manjhi has made this statement, referring to the BJP's demands to include Ramayana in government schools and colleges in Bihar on the line of Madhya Pradesh.
Bihar Education Minister, Vijay Kumar Choudhary, a senior Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader, said that there was no proposal under consideration to include Ramayana in government-run schools and colleges.
However, BJP leaders have launched a scathing attack against Manjhi for questioning the historicity of Ram. Two Bihar ministers and senior BJP leaders, including Mangal Pandey and Nitin Navin, said Manjhi should not play 'vote-bank' politics. ”It is unfortunate to question the existence of Ram. I am against anyone who made such statement.”
BJP leader and spokesperson Premranjan Patel, said that no one could erase the existence of Ram and Ramayana as both had been part of history for ages.
A saffron-clad BJP MLA Hari Bhushan Thakur, who has emerged as a “firebrand Hindutva icon” in the state, said that Manjhi should replace Ram from his name first, if he does not believe in the existence of Lord Ram. ”Why his parents named him after Ram, he should ask himself”.
With Manjhi under the fire from BJP leaders, JD-U leaders are either silent or avoid making a statement.
Opposition parties, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress, are yet to react officially on this issue. A senior RJD leader, known for being outspoken, said the party would not allow BJP to play politics against Manjhi by using Ram's name. “The BJP has not forgotten how the RJD with Lalu Prasad as a CM stopped Ram-Rath and arrested L K Advani for the sake of communal harmony and peace. They fear Lalu Ji as he was the only leader who has been directly fighting against communal forces and never compromised on secular politics,” the RJD leader said.