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'Respect To All Religions' To 'Most Unfortunate', Here's Opposition's Delayed Damage Control For Udayanidhi's 'Sanatan Dharma' Comment

Even as Tamil Nadu minister Udayanidhi Stalin's statement calling for the eradication of sanatan dharma is met with widespread condemnation, the Opposition bloc INDIA took nearly a day to distance itself and offer mild criticism.

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Udhayanidhi Stalin
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The Opposition bloc INDIA has started distancing itself from Tamil Nadu minister and DMK leader Udayanidhi Stalin's comment on Sanatan Dharma. 

While there has not yet been outright condemnation from the highest quarters of the DMK or the INDIA coalition, voices opposing the statement have emerged from the coalition — even if they came a day late. 

Earlier, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin's son Udayanidhi had compared Sanatan Dharma, a term often used for Hinduism religion, to malaria and dengue and said it  should be "eradicated" like these two diseases. These comments created a political storm and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the DMK and INDIA coalition for being anti-Hindu. The BJP sought an apology from the bloc. 

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In a second statement, Udayanidhi said he stood by his statement and said "like the spread of diseases like COVID-19, dengue, and malaria by mosquitoes, that Sanatan Dharma is responsible for many social evils". 

In delayed reactions after widespread condemnation from the BJP as well as apolitical and sociopolitical personalities on social media, the Congress party said that it respects all religions and Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackery faction said that sanatan dharma is "country’s bedrock". The Trinamool Congress also termed the statement "most unfortunate".

What did DMK leader Udayanidhi say?

Tamil Nadu minister and DMK leader Udayanidhi compared sanatan dharma, a term commonly used for Hinduism, with diseases like dengue and malaria and said the sanatan dharma should be eradicated. 

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Speaking at an event, Udayanidhi said, "Some things cannot be opposed, they should be eradicated. Mosquitoes, dengue fever, malaria, and Corona cannot be opposed. They should be eradicated. So should Sanatan Dharma."

Later, after criticism, Udayanidhi reiterated the statement and expanded it. He said that people suffer due to sanatan dharma and that it is "responsible for many social evils". 

He tweeted, "Sanatan Dharma is a principle that divides people in the name of caste and religion. Uprooting Sanatan Dharma is upholding humanity and human equality. I stand firmly by every word I have spoken. I spoke on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized, who suffer due to the Sanatan Dharma...Let me reiterate the crucial aspect of my speech: I believe, like the spread of diseases like COVID-19, Dengue, and Malaria by mosquitoes, that Sanatan Dharma is responsible for many social evils. I am prepared to confront any challenges that come my way, whether in a court of law or the people's court. Stop spreading fake news."

How did the Opposition react to Udayanidhi's statement?

After Udayanidhi's repeated statements on eradicating sanatan dharma, the Opposition began to distance itself from the statement on Monday. 

With a mild reaction, Congress said it respects all religions and the TMC said it was "most unfortunate".

Even as such mild criticism and distancing came from some quarteres, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge's son and Karnataka Priyank Kharge said, "In my view, a belief that doesn’t treat humans equally cannot be called a religion, be it any religion. Every human must be treated equally, and a religion must promote the dignity of being a human being. Otherwise it is as good as a disease."

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Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal, however, said, "Actually, our view is very clear: sarva dharma sam bhav [equal respect to all religions]. It is the Congress ideology. But you have to understand that every political party has freedom to express their views. We are respecting everybody's beliefs. 

TMC leader Kunal Ghosh said, "His comment is most unfortunate. This is not related with INDIA alliance. We (TMC) strongly condemn it. He should change his comment."

TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "I respect #Stalin but every religion has separate sentiments. #India is about ‘#UnityInDiversity’ which is our origin. We should not be involved in any matter which might hurt a section of people."

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The most vocal criticism came from Shiv Sena-UBT, whose leader Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted, "Sanatan Dharm stands for eternal truth -the way to live life- the conscience and being. Sanatanis have long withstood attacks by invaders to end their identity yet they have not just survived but thrived. The country’s bedrock, which is linked to sanatan dharm, has been of inclusiveness of all faiths and identities. Anyone making derogatory comments against it is ignorant of what it stands for.

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