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'Sita Worshipped By Many, Akbar Secular Ruler': High Court Asks Bengal To Rename Lions

'Mr Counsel, will you yourself name your own pet after some Hindu God or Muslim Prophet,' the bench questioned the state government's counsel about the choice of names 'Akbar' and 'Sita' for the lions.

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High Court Asks Bengal To Rename Lions (Photo for representation)
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The Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the West Bengal government to reconsider the names of a lion and lioness housed together at the Bengal Safari Park, following objections raised by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), as reported by Bar and Bench.

During the proceedings, a single-judge bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharya questioned the state government's counsel about the choice of names 'Akbar' and 'Sita' for the lions. 

"Mr Counsel, will you yourself name your own pet after some Hindu God or Muslim Prophet ... I think, if any one of us would have been the authority, none of us would have named them as Akbar and Sita. Can anyone of us think of naming an animal after Rabindranath Tagore?"

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While hearing the plea, the court observed that goddess Sita is worshipped by a large majority of people in the country and Akbar was a successful and secular Mughal Emperor.

The two big cats were brought to the Siliguri zoo from Tripura’s Sepahijala zoo, along with eight other animals, as part of an animal exchange programme on February 12.

The Calcutta High Court also observed that West Bengal is currently at the centre of several controversies and the current one over the names of lions is something which can be avoided.

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What Is The Issue?

The Hindutva group had filed the petition owing to the naming of a lion after a Hindu deity hurting the religious sentiments of many and it being an act of blasphemy by "anti-Hindu conspirators".

"Sita cannot stay with the Mughal emperor Akbar,” the VHP official Anup Mondal told The Guardian on Sunday, suggesting it would offend religious sentiments in the Hindu-majority country.

“Such an act amounts to blasphemy and is a direct assault on the religious belief of all Hindus,” the VHP said.

A letter written to the Commissioner of Police of the Siliguri Commissionerate from the state secretary of VHP read “VHP with deep anguish observed that a member of the cat family has been named after the name of Sita the consort of Lord Rama who herself is a scared deity to all Hindus across the world. Such act amounts to blasphemy and is a direct assault on the religious belief of all Hindus.”

The letter further requested the addressed to take necessary steps to rename the lion with a name not connected to Hindu religious markers.

However, this is not the first time animals in Indian zoos have been named after Indian gods and goddesses.

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Delhi Zoological Park, has a white tigress named Sita. A cheetah in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh was named after Indian god of fire Agni.

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