Bring it on, responded firebrand Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra as an FIR was filed against her for hurting religious sentiments with her remarks on Goddess Kali that triggered yet another controversy and divided the political spectrum.
“Bring it on BJP! Am a Kali worshipper. I am not afraid of anything. Not your ignoramuses. Not your goons. Not your police. And most certainly not your trolls. Truth doesn’t need back up forces," Moitra tweeted after a BJP leader, Jiten Chatterjee, filed a police complaint against her which led to the FIR.
The TMC leader, who often hits the headlines for her fiery speeches and comebacks, had said that Goddess Kali, to her, “is a meat-eating, liquor-accepting deity”.
At a conclave, Moitra said: “If you go to Bhutan or Sikkim, for example, when they do puja, they give whisky to their god. Now, if you go to Uttar Pradesh and say that you give whisky to your god as prasad, they will say that is blasphemous. For me, Goddess Kali is a meat-eating and alcohol-accepting goddess. And if you go to Tarapith (a major Shakti peeth in West Bengal’s Birbhum district), you will see sadhus smoking. That is the version of Kali people worship (there). I, within Hinduism, being a Kali worshipper, have the right to imagine Kali in that way; that is my freedom."
She added: “I have the freedom to do it (envision a meat-eating goddess) as much as you have the freedom to worship your god as vegetarian and white-clothed."
As her remarks gained traction, Moitra said trolls had twisted her comments as her support for a film poster shared by filmmaker Leena Manimekalai which featured the Goddess smoking.
At least, five FIRs were filed against Moitra for her comments, with four of them in Bengal — in Kolkata’s Bowbazar, Raghunathpur, Alipurduar and Natabari in Cooch Behar district. An FIR was lodged against her in Madhya Pradesh by the crime branch in state capital Bhopal under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (outraging religious feelings).
The BJP soon jumped in, asking whether insulting Hindu Gods was the official stand of the Trinamool Congress. Amid the escalating war of words, the TMC distanced itself from Moitra’s comments and said on Twitter: “The comments made by @MahuaMoitra at the #IndiaTodayConclaveEast2022 and her views expressed on Goddess Kali have been made in her personal capacity and are NOT ENDORSED BY THE PARTY in ANY MANNER OR FORM. All India Trinamool Congress strongly condemns such comments.”
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, TMC spokesperson and MP, said: “I have no clarification to give about the party’s stand vis-a-vis Mahua Moitra’s comment besides what has been said on our Twitter handle… The stand is self-explanatory. We condemn the depiction of Kali in the film poster as well. We have no intention to comment on the politics that BJP is trying to play over this issue."
On action against Moitra, Roy said: “What action police takes will depend on the nature and veracity of complaints filed. The action taken against Nupur Sharma by police came in the wake of Supreme Court observation and order."
As her party delinked itself from the row, Moitra was quick to respond. She soon unfollowed her party’s official handle even though she still follows TMC Mamata Banerjee’s account.
Moitra found some support from Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who said “what devotees offer as bhog says more about them than about the Goddess”. He added that the forms of worship vary widely across the country. “We have reached a stage where no one can say anything publicly about any aspect of religion without someone claiming to be offended," Tharoor wrote on Twitter. “It’s obvious that Mahua Moitra wasn’t trying to offend anyone. I urge everyone to lighten up and leave religion to individuals to practice privately.”
1/2 I am no stranger to malicious manufactured controversy, but am still taken aback by the attack on @MahuaMoitra for saying what every Hindu knows, that our forms of worship vary widely across the country. What devotees offer as bhog says more about them than about the goddess.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) July 6, 2022
Meanwhile, summing up her response and her willingness to fight the controversy tooth and nail, Moitra said on Twitter tweeted: “Jai Ma Kali! The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing.”