Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya on Sunday alleged that certain portions of the Ramcharitmanas insult a large section of society based on caste and said these should be "banned".
Though the party distanced itself from Maurya's remark, saying it was his comments, the BJP in Uttar Pradesh demanded an answer from Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and its senior leaders.
Maurya, who is considered a prominent OBC leader in the state, said, "Religion is meant for the welfare of humanity and for strengthening it."
"If there is any insult to a section of society due to certain lines in the Ramcharitmanas based on 'jaati', 'varn' and 'varg', then it is certainly not 'dharma', it is 'adharma'. There are certain lines in which names of castes such as 'teli' and 'kumhaar' are mentioned," he said.
Maurya claimed that "the feelings of lakhs of people hailing from these castes have been hurt."
"Similarly, a 'chaupaai' (verse) says that women should be punished. This amounts to hurting the feelings of women, who constitute half of the population," he said in his comments on the Ramcharitmanas, a popular version of the Ramayana penned by poet Tulsidas.
"If a debate on Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas is an insult... then why are religious leaders not worried about the insult to SCs, STs, OBCs, and women. Are SCs, STs, OBCs, and (a large number of) women not Hindus?" Maurya, who had quit the BJP to join the SP ahead of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, asked.
He demanded that "the objectionable portions of the Ramcharitmanas that insult based on 'jaati', 'varn' and 'varg' should be banned."
Earlier this month, Bihar Education Minister and RJD leader Chandra Shekhar landed in a controversy after he alleged that certain verses of the Ramcharitmanas promoted social discrimination.
On Maurya's remarks, SP spokesperson Fakhrul Hasan said, "The Samajwadi Party respects all religions and traditions."
"The statement made by Swami Prasad Maurya is his comments, and it has nothing to do with the SP. The SP raises its voice for the youth, unemployed, and women," he said.
Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary said, "Akhilesh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav, Dimple Yadav, and Ramgopal Yadav should answer."
"Now, Swami Prasad Maurya is making desperate efforts to become a big leader (in the SP), but that reservation is not towards him, it is towards the (Yadav) family. The SP had worked to hamper our religious activities," he said.