Monday, Aug 08, 2022
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The 'Kaali' Controversy, Freedom Of Expression And Remarks By Mahua Moitra: All You Need To Know

Answering a question on the row over a poster depicting an actor dressed up as the Goddess Kaali smoking a cigarette, TMC leader Mahua Moitra said that she personally has no problem with the poster.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra.

Following the controversy over the 'Kaali' row, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra's recent remarks on Goddess Kaali have stirred another controversy. Answering a question on the row over a poster depicting an actor dressed up as the Goddess smoking a cigarette, Moitra said that she personally has no problem with the poster depicting Kali the way the director wanted to.

Speaking at a media conclave, she said, "When you go to Sikkim, you will see that they offer whiskey to Goddess Kaali. But if you go to Uttar Pradesh, and if you tell them that you offer whiskey to the goddess as ‘prasad’, they will call it blasphemy."

Also Read | Mahua Moitra's Comment On Kali: Has TMC Sacrificed Its Bengali Identity Before National Aspirations?

She further said, "Kaali to me is a meat-eating, alcohol-accepting Goddess."

However, Moitra's fierce statement was quick enough to garner angry comments and responses from leaders and people over hurting religious sentiments.  Police in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday registered a case against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra over her remark about Goddess Kaali. The First Information Report (FIR) was registered by the crime branch in state capital Bhopal under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (outraging religious feelings).

"Moitra's statement has hurt religious feelings of Hindus. We will not tolerate disrespect to any Hindu Gods and Goddesses at any cost," said Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in a statement.

Also Read | Leena Manimekalai's Searing Portrayal Of Violence Against Women In 'Maadathy' Is Powerful Cinema

Moitra on Tuesday stirred a controversy with her remarks that she has every right as "an individual to imagine Goddess Kaali as a meat-eating and alcohol-accepting goddess", as every person has the right to worship god and goddess in his or her own way.

While the BJP severely criticised her, her party, TMC, distanced itself from the comment and condemned it.

TMC's official Twitter account also issued a statement on social media condemning her remarks. "The comments made by @MahuaMoitra at the #IndiaTodayConclaveEast2022 and her views expressed on Goddess Kali have been made in her personal capacity and are NOT ENDORSED BY THE PARTY in ANY MANNER OR FORM. All India Trinamool Congress strongly condemns such comments," the tweet put out by the official handle of TMC read. 


Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said, "Freedom of expression cannot be reserved for Hindu Gods and Goddesses while for the rest one must tip toe around religious sensibilities. I am offended with the movie poster on Ma Kali, respect has to be equal for all&FoE should never become a tool to offend- deliberately."

Reacting to the statement, MEA official Varun Puri said, "#MahuaMoitra comments on Maa Kali hurt religious sentiments of Hindus. Her upbringing is such that these offending remarks are expected from her mouth. I demand strict actions against her with immediate effect."

In her defence, Moitra said, "To all you sanghis- lying will NOT make you better hindus. I NEVER backed any film or poster or mentioned the word smoking. Suggest you visit my Maa Kali in Tarapith to see what food & drink is offered as bhog. Joy Ma Tara."

According to media reports, Moitra has unfollowed the official Twitter handle of the TMC after her party distanced itself from her comments on Goddess Kaali. 

Further, Moitra said she, a “worshipper of the deity”, was not afraid of saffron camp “goons”. She also said that “truth doesn't need back up forces”.

"Jai Ma Kali! The goddess Bengalis worship is fearless & non-appeasing." she tweeted. "Bring it on BJP! Am a Kali worshipper. I am not afraid of anything. Not your ignoramuses. Not your goons. Not your police. And most certainly not your trolls. Truth doesn't need back up forces," Moitra added.


 

Opposition Hits Out

Shortly after, the BJP went at the remark hammer and tongs and wondered if the ruling party of West Bengal had adopted a policy of "insulting Hindu gods and goddesses".

"According to the norms of the Sanatan Hindu dharma, Goddess Kali is never worshipped as a goddess who consumes alcohol and meat. Hindus had been revering Goddess Kali for ages as a symbol of power against evil. Her comments have hurt religious sentiments. We demand her arrest in the light of the statement against Goddess Kali," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.

Also Read | Before ‘Kaali’, 10 Bollywood Films That Landed Up In A Controversy

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari said hundreds of police complaints had been lodged against Moitra across the state.

"The TMC government and the state police have been very active in seeking police action against Nupur Sharma. But they have not taken any action against Mahua Moitra. There can't be a different set of rules for BJP and TMC leaders. We will wait for ten days and then move the court," the saffron camp MLA said.

Social media draws a parallel between Moitra and Nupur Sharma 

Moitra stirred up a hornet’s nest just days after now-suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma created a controversy with her remarks on Prophet Mohammad, which triggered protests across the nation.

Following Moitra's 'offensive' statement, Twitter soon compared Moitra's statement with Nupur Sharma's controversial remarks, which had incited violence across many states, demanding the arrest of Moitra. 

One user said, " #MahuaMoitra said Goddess Kali is a meat-eating and alcohol-accepting goddess. Freedom of speech is only for insulting Hindu Gods? Who gave them this freedom? What if we Hindu do the same as Muslims are doing against #NupurSharma."

What is the Kaali controversy?

The controversy erupted after filmmaker Leena Manimekalai shared the poster of the film on social media. The poster depicts a woman dressed in the costume of Goddess Kaali while waving an LGBTQ+ flag. She is seen smoking a cigarette in the photo. 

The Toronto-based Aga Khan Museum that hosted the event, where the film poster was shown, landed in trouble. It has expressed deep regret for "inadvertently causing offence" to members of the Hindu and other faiths.

The Indian High Commission in Canada has urged the organizers to withdraw all provocative material.

In a statement, the High Commission said that they have received complaints from leaders of the Hindu community in Canada about the "disrespectful depiction of Hindu Gods on the poster of a film showcased as part of the 'Under the Tent' project at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto."

"Our Consulate General in Toronto has conveyed these concerns to the organizers of the event," read the statement.

"Toronto Metropolitan University's project presentation was hosted at the Aga Khan Museum in the context of the Museum's mission to foster intercultural understanding and dialogue through the arts. Respect for diverse religious expressions and faith communities forms an integral part of that mission," the statement said.

The poster was shared by Manimekalai on social media on July 2.

FIR against filmmaker

An FIR has been lodged against filmmaker Leena Manimekalai in Lucknow over a poster of her documentary 'Kaali' allegedly depicting the goddess in a disrespectful manner. Earlier, an FIR against her was lodged in Delhi as well. 

The FIR was registered at the Hazratganj police station against Manimekalai, a filmmaker based in Canada's Toronto, producer of 'Kaali' Asha Associates and editor Shravan Onachan on Monday night, police said.

The FIR was lodged under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and sections 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act.

Under attack for the poster, Manimekalai on Monday said she will continue to use her voice fearlessly till she is alive.

"I have nothing to lose. Till the time I live, I wish to live with a voice that speaks what I believe without fear. If the price for that is my life, it can be given," she wrote in a tweet in Tamil in response to an article on the controversy.

The filmmaker also urged people to watch the documentary to understand the context behind the poster.

The President of a right-wing organisation was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly issuing a death threat and abusing through video the maker of the film 'Kaali'.

(With inputs from PTI)

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