Assam CM apologises for Bhagavad Gita-based social media post on castes

Himanta Biswa Sarma attributed the deleted post to an incorrect translation of a sloka by a team member

December 29, 2023 09:36 am | Updated 11:30 am IST - GUWAHATI

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. | Photo Credit: H.S. MANJUNATH

GUWAHATI

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has apologised for a Bhagavad Gita-based social media post on the Varna or caste system in Hinduism.

He attributed the deleted post to an incorrect translation of verse 44 from chapter 18 of the Gita by a team member.

“As a routine, I upload one sloka of the Bhagavad Gita every morning on my social media handles. Till date, I have posted 668 slokas (669 after the apology). Recently one of my team members posted a sloka from Chapter 18 verse 44 with an incorrect translation,” he wrote on X, Facebook, and other social media handles on December 28 night.

“As soon as I noticed the mistake, I promptly deleted the post. The state of Assam reflects a perfect picture of a casteless society, thanks to the reform movement led by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva. If the deleted post has offended anyone, I sincerely apologize,” he said.

The deleted post, uploaded after Dr. Sarma attended an event on the Bhagavad Gita in Haryana, referred to the duties of Vaishyas and Shudras – at the bottom of the caste chain – toward the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, the upper castes.

“Lord Shri Krishna himself described the natural duties of the Vaishyas and Shudras,” the December 26 post on his social media handles read in Assamese.

“…farming, cow rearing, and commerce are natural duties of the Vaishya, and serving the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas is the natural duty of the Shudras,” the post read, adding: “Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita are the basis on which the Indian Constitution was written.”

The controversial post went viral around the time the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat was touring parts of eastern Assam, including Majuli, a sandbar that houses several monasteries adhering to the form of Vaishnavism propagated by 15th-16th century saint-reformer Sankaradeva.

In October 2022, Mr. Bhagwat said the Varna system needed to be discarded along with the concept of jaati (race).

Political parties such as the CPI (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Congress slammed Dr. Sharma for his ‘casteist’ outlook. They said his now-deleted post reflected the BJP’s “Manuvadi ideology” and the Chief Minister’s “RSS mentality”.

A spokesperson of the BJP’s Assam unit said such criticisms were uncalled for when the Chief Minister issued a public apology for an error by a member of his digital team.

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