Former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) is a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, courted controversy on Friday as he claimed that the Ramayana is just a fictional story. Manjhi said Ram is not God, but just a character created by Valmiki and Tulsidas.
"I don't believe in Ram. Ram was not God. Ram was a character created by Tulsidas and Valmiki to spread their message," Manjhi was quoted as saying by the NDTV.
Speaking at an event to mark the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, the HAM chief raked up the issue of caste-divide and alleged wide-spread discrimination against dalits.
“If you believe in Ram, then the story we always heard is that Ram ate fruit tasted by Shabari. You will not eat the fruit we bite into but at least eat what we touch," Manjhi said.
Manjhi's comments came days after several states reported violence during the Ram Navami celebrations with one person each killed in Gujarat and Jharkhand. Clashes were reported in Madhya Pradesh where the administration launched a demolition drive against "illegal" structures of miscreants who pelted stones at a Ram Navami procession in Khargone.
In Delhi, two groups of students clashed at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) allegedly over serving of non-vegetarian food on Ram Navami in its mess, with police saying six students were injured.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad has alleged that minority community leaders and Left liberals are to be blamed for "attacks" across the country on people celebrating Ram Navami and cautioned them against leading their followers on the path of violence.