BJP fumes over Muslim minister’s visit to Gaya temple along with Nitish Kumar
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had on Monday offered prayers at the famous Vishnupad temple in Gaya, where he was accompanied by Mohammad Israil Mansuri, a cabinet colleague from his new ally RJD.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday accused Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar of causing “deliberate insult” to Hindu sensibilities by taking along a minister from another faith inside an ancient temple in Gaya where it is prohibited.
Kumar had on Monday offered prayers at the famous Vishnupad temple in Gaya, where he was accompanied by Mohammad Israil Mansuri, a cabinet colleague from his new ally RJD.
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Mansuri, a Pasmanda Muslim who holds information technology portfolio, had later told reporters, “I feel blessed to have got the opportunity for a darshan of the temple with the honourable chief minister”.
As per convention, ministers in Bihar are given “prabhaar” (charge) of districts where they also head the respective program coordination committee. Mansuri has been given the charge of Gaya.
However, Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal reacted furiously.
“We demand a public apology from the chief minister. Can he think of setting his foot inside Mecca? Why must Hindus always adjust their religious sensibilities in the name of tolerance?” he asked.
“If the chief minister refuses to apologize, he should brace for protests from BJP workers everywhere, including the state assembly,” said Jaiswal, whose party is sore over loss of power in the state.
When pointed out that priests of the temple were reluctant to voice their anguish, the BJP leader said, “A common man cannot do much when the chief minister is intent on a deliberate insult to Hindu sensibilities”.
Working president and secretary of the trust managing the temple, Shambhu Lal Vitthal and Gajadhar Lal Pathak respectively, said they were not aware of Mansuri’s entry but it should have been “avoided” since a notice board outside the premises clearly stated that “only those believing in Sanatana Dharma” were allowed.
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When deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav was asked to comment on the controversy, he said, “Nobody pays attention to BJP which stands for badka jhuttha (big liar) party”.
State cabinet minister Ashok Choudhary, who is also a senior leader of CM Kumar’s JD(U), said, “It is BJP’s mindset that Hindus and Muslims must not go to each other’s places of worship. We visit temples and mazaars with the same spirit”.
When pointed out that entry of non-Hindus is prohibited inside the Vishnupad temple, Choudhary said, “Mansuri ji must not have been aware of such a convention. But it is not something over which a fuss should be made.”
The chief minister was in Gaya to review the preparations for the forthcoming Pitri Paksha Mela, commencing from September 9 this year.
Mahesh Gupt, the senior most member of the Vishnupad temple committee, said, “We were not aware that anyone among the guests on Monday was a non-Hindu. We couldn’t recognize him (Mansuri) as we had not seen him and he did not appear different from others. But this could have been avoided. There’s a notice Board at the temple, stating clearly that admittance of non-Hindus is not allowed.”
Danish Rizwan, the spokesperson of Hindustani Awam Morcha, a constituent of the ruling alliance in the state, said, “It’s a secular country. Nobody would be allowed to encourage communal feeling.”