Congress’ Udit Raj supports Udhayanidhi Stalin in Sanatana Dharma controversy


Congress leader Udit Raj. File

Congress leader Udit Raj. File
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

Even as the Congress distanced itself from DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin’s remarks about Sanatana Dharma, Congress leader and a former Delhi MP Udit Raj supported the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s son, saying that his remarks espoused an “established belief of the Dravidian movement which stems from the Self-Respect Movement of E. Ramaswamy Periyar”.

Mr. Raj is the second Dalit leader in Congress now to have publicly supported Mr. Stalin after Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge had earlier done so. 

“Any religion that does not promote equality, any religion that does not ensure that you have the dignity of being a human being is not a religion according to me. Any religion that does not have equal rights and does not treat you as a human being is as good as a disease,” Mr. Priyank Kharge had said.

In a letter to the PM Narendra Modi, copies of which he made public on Thursday, Mr. Raj went on to question Mr. Modi about which side of the debate he wanted to be on as the leader of the country. 

He asked Mr. Modi why his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was attacking the INDIA alliance over the DMK leader’s remarks when NDA ally AIADMK also considers Periyar a pioneer. “Your party is not demanding an explanation from AIADMK on Periyar’s views,” he said, adding, “You and your party want to take political advantage in North India by heating up this controversy.”

Mr. Raj went on to say that this was an attempt to avoid a discussion on the caste census and real partnership of people from marginalised backgrounds in positions of power. 

The former North-West Delhi MP said senior leaders of the BJP such as Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath have made public remarks taking pride in their “Kshatriya” caste and even called Hanuman a Dalit. 

“I wish you could imagine how this public display of high and low would be a thorn in the hearts of the people who were actually born in ‘lower’ castes,” Mr. Raj said. “When you were the Chief Minister, you had included your Vaishya caste in the backward class, but the pain of being Dalit-backward can be understood only by experiencing such a life, not through papers,” he went on before citing examples of “insults” to former President Ramnath Kovind and President Droupadi Murmu while worshipping in the temple at Puri, Odisha. 

Mr. Raj said some media reports had said that the PM had purportedly instructed the BJP leadership to respond to the debate on Sanatana Dharma with conviction. “If this is true,” he said, it is good for Dalit, women, deprived and backward classes of people in the country, because they have wanted this debate to be had for a while now. 

“Honourable Modi ji, if you want to run this debate while being in power, then you should stand with the ideas of Dr. Ambedkar and respond strictly to those who stand with the religious basis of the caste system. Those religious texts which instruct Shudras to serve them all their lives and never to free them should be banned,” Mr. Raj wrote in the letter. 


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