Sanatana row | Congress says Sarva Dharma Sambhava is the party’s position, Kamal Nath is categorical in rejecting Udhayanidhi Stalin’s comment

INDIA bloc members like Shiv Sena (UBT) and Trinamool Congress distanced themselves from Udhayanidhi’s comments 

September 04, 2023 09:05 pm | Updated 10:00 pm IST - New Delhi

AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal and AICC General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh address a press conference, in New Delhi on September 4, 2023.

AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal and AICC General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh address a press conference, in New Delhi on September 4, 2023. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Respecting all religions is our philosophy, the Congress said on Monday as the party tried to play down the Sanatana Dharma comments by Udhaynidhi Stalin, a Minister in the Tamil Nadu government and son of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.

On Saturday, Mr. Udhayanidhi had said that Sanatana Dharma is like “malaria and dengue” and “such things should not be opposed but eradicated”.

The BJP not only made it a political issue but also targeted the Congress in the poll-bound States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. In these Hindi belt poll-bound States, the Congress is trying to match the BJP’s strident Hindutva politics with its own version and understanding of the politics of faith.

However, Home Minister Amit Shah, while addressing a public rally in Rajasthan on Sunday, accused the Congress of insulting all those who are followers of Sanatana Dharma.

“Our view is clear. Sarva Dharma Sambhava [equal respect for all religions] is the Congress’ ideology. Every political party has the freedom to tell their views. We are respecting everybody’s beliefs,” Congress general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal told reporters at a press conference.

But Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath was not so nuanced and categorically rejected Mr. Udhayanidhi’s comments. “That may be his personal comment but I don’t agree with him,” Mr. Nath told reporters on being asked about “eradicating Sanatana Dharma” comment.

Some key partners of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) echoed Mr. Nath and distanced themselves from the DMK leader’s controversial remarks. 

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi took to social media platform X (formely Twitter) to argue that Sanatana Dharma stands “for eternal truth - the way to live life - conscience and being”.

Sanatanis have long withstood attacks by invaders to end their identity yet they have not just survived but thrived. The country’s bedrock, which is linked to sanatan dharm, has been of inclusiveness of all faiths and identities. Anyone making derogatory comments against it is ignorant of what it stands for,” Ms. Chaturvedi said.

Speaking on the row, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee said “each and every religion should be equally respected”. “I have high regards and respect for the people of Tamil Nadu and south India. But my humble request is respect all, as every religion has separate sentiments. India is a secular and democratic country. India is about unity in diversity,” she said, adding, “I am not clear about why and on which grounds he has made his comments... I respect Sanatana Dharma and we derive our leanings from the Vedas.”

However, supporting the DMK leader, Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary D. Raja said, “Perpetuation of caste and gender hierarchies in the name of Sanatana Dharma is undoing the Herculean work of reformers like Mahatma Phule, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Periyar. RSS-BJP must clarify their position. Lip-service to Dr. Ambedkar with Manusmriti in heart will be called out.”

The DMK leader also found support from Priyank Kharge, a Minister in the Karnataka government and son of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge. “Any religion that does not promote equality and doesn’t ensure the dignity of being human isn’t a religion according to me. It is as good as a disease,” Kharge junior said.

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