Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Minister says Sita a matter of faith, Oppn corners BJP govt

- Moushumi Das Gupta letters@hindustant­imes.com (With PTI inputs)

FOOT IN MOUTH Cong leads the charge, demands apology over Mahesh Sharma’s remark

Sita is a matter of faith and there is no historical evidence that she existed, Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, triggering a debate on myth and history that often overlaps in India.

Opposition members seized the minister’s remarks to taunt the BJP-led government that Sita’s husband, Hindu god Ram, is a matter of faith too if the same logic is applied.

Ram and Sita are the principal characters of the epic Ramayana, and he is one of most revered gods in the Hindu pantheon.

“Lord Ram is my god. The minister’s reply has shaken my faith. I condemn his reply,” Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, demanding an apology from the government.

Janata Dal (United) parliament­arian Anil Kumar Sahani accused the government of insulting Sita and women in general. “The government should apologise,” he demanded.

Culture minister Sharma’s comments were in his written reply to a question in the House on whether the Centre has any historical proof about Sita’s existence.

“Your government has reached this place today on the back of the Ram movement and now you are saying that Sita is a matter of faith,” Congress leader Singh said.

He was referring to the BJP-

Your government (BJP govt at the Centre) has reached this place today on the back of the Ram movement and now you are saying that Sita is a matter of faith

spearheade­d movement to build a Ram temple at a place where a mosque stood in Ayodhya. The Babri mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992, by rightwing Hindus, sparking communal riots across the country that left more than 3,000 people dead.

Many Hindus believe that god Ram was born at the spot where Babur, the first Mughal emperor, had built the mosque. The disputed site, comprising 2.7 acres, remains India’s most potent religious flashpoint.

Attacking the ruling party, Singh said the BJP had raised objections to a similar reply made by an earlier Congress-led government on the ‘Ram Setu’ between India and Sri Lanka.

As opposition parliament­arians heckled the culture minister, he said his comments were misinterpr­eted.

“I am saying the government started religious circuits such as Ramayana and Buddha. In the Ramayana circuit we are doing upgrades in Sitamarhi district of Bihar, which is said to be the birthplace of Sita,” Sharma said.

But he clarified that government has not done excavation in Sitamarhi so far.

The raging debate had its light-hearted moment when CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury started chuckling.

Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari quipped that Yechury should not feel apologetic about his name. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present in the Upper House, looked at the veteran communist and smiled.

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