Telugu actor and film critic Mahesh Kathi has found himself in the centre of a storm for allegedly making objectionable remarks against Lord Rama and Sita in a debate in a Telugu news channel.
Activists from several pro-Hindu outfits have filed complaints against Mahesh across Hyderabad. A case has been registered against him at the Banjara Hills police station, as the TV studio falls under its jurisdiction.
Mahesh was participating in a debate about a sedition case filed against rationalist Babu Gogineni. In the debate, he said, âFor me, Ramayana is just another storyâŚI believe Rama is as much a cheater (dagulbhaji) as he is ideal in that story. And I think perhaps Sita would have been better, might have gotten justice if she had stayed with Ravana. Whatâs wrong with that?â
This immediately sparked controversy with several Hindu activists demanding his immediate arrest.
Speaking to TNM, the Station House Officer of Banjara Hills police station K Srinivas said, âSeveral Bajrang Dal activists have filed a complaint against him for making objectionable comments against the Ramayana, and Rama and Sita. We have registered a case under Sections 295 a (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reliÂgious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reliÂgious beliefs) and 505 (statements disturbing public tranquillity) of the Indian Penal Code.â
The Saidabad SHO said that they too received a complaint against Mahesh Kathi from an advocate, Karuna Sagar, but they are transferring the case to the Banjara Hills police station as the studio falls under their jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, seer Paripoornanda has said that he will go to any extent to ensure Kathi Mahesh is arrested for humiliating Hindu sentiments. At a press meet he said, âRama is not a god to me alone; he has hurt the crores of people who worship Rama. We will definitely hit the roads(to protest) if the government doesnât respond (to our demand to arrest him) by tomorrow.â
Karuna Sagar, President of Hindu Sanghatan, alleged that Mahesh was stirring controversies just to remain in the public eye.
Speaking to TNM, he said, âWe are demanding the immediate arrest of Mahesh Kathi, and the police should file the PD Act against him to restrain him from committing further offences. His opinion on the TV discussion has hurt my sentimentsâŚAs a Hindu, I have utmost respect towards Rama.â
Mahesh Kathi was quick to respond to the criticism. He said on a Facebook Live, âThey are trying to sow the poisonous seeds of discriminationâŚI have conviction in my values.â
In a Facebook post, he wrote, âThere is no other meaning to the word âdagulbhajiâ than cheater in Telugu. It is not abusive, demeaning or raunchy. The people who attacked me could have done so for two reasons: one, they are politically unemployed, or two, they couldnât take it as the person who made the comments is a Dalit. Can there be any other reason?â
But Karuna Sagar hit back saying it had become âfashionableâ to âplay the Dalit cardâ after hurting Hindu sentiments.
Responding to the cases filed against Mahesh, theorist and activist Professor Kancha Ilaiah said that filing cases seems to have become a national phenomena, instead of people engaging in debate.
There were several cases filed against Professor Kancha too in both the Telugu states for his booklet Samajika Smugglerlu â Komatollu (Social Smugglers - Komatollu), which carried an excerpt from his book Post-Hindu India.
Speaking to TNM, he said, "This kind of discussion (on Rama, Sita and Ravana) has happened earlier as well, but there was no trend of filing cases. This trend has something to do with the BJP being in power in the Centre.â