Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, sparked off a controversy claiming that Lord Hanuman, the Hindu deity was a Dalit, starting a tail of controversial comments tagging religious and communal identities to the deity, followed by varying opinion of sorts, such as while to some, he appeared as a Muslim, to some he was a Jat, and to some, a sportsperson. Thus, the question arises as to whether Lord Hanuman has been turned into a political tool to gain votes with parties trying to use Bajrangbali’s massive popularity in their advantage.
While campaigning for the Rajasthan polls in Malakheda of Alwar district on November 27, Yogi Adityanath commented that Lord Hanuman was a forest dweller, deprived and a Dalit who tried to connect all the communities from the North to South and the East to West urging all the fellow listeners belonging to the caste to vote for Yogi’s party. Following Yogi’s path, former Uttar Pradesh BJP MP Savitribai Phule also agreed that the Lord was a Dalit and a slave of the Manuwadi people. She asserted that Hanuman was a human but further questioned, when Hanuman gave his all for Lord Ram, why was he given a tail with face blackened and made into a monkey?
In the midst of all this, Union Minister Satyapal Chaudhary asserted that Hanuman was an “Arya”.
Bukkal Nawab, a member of the Legislative Council of Uttar Pradesh, BJP member, commented that the deity was a Muslim according to his beliefs. He stated this belief on the basis that names in the Muslim community — Rehman, Ramzan, Farman, Zeeshan, Qurban, rhymes with Lord Hanuman’s. However, Congress MP Husain Dalwai in a conversation with AV regarding the issue, commented, “Islam started around 600 years ago, thus, it’s literally impossible to tag Lord Hanuman as a Muslim. Dragging religious figures into politics is not at all a right thing to do. Tagging them like this is a sign of divisive mentality.”
Hari Om Pandey, MP from UP’s Ambedkar Nagar constituency claimed that according to his own research, Hanuman was a Brahmin, the ruler of the ‘Vanars’ – Sugriva, happened to be a Kurmi, while his elder brother Bali was tagged a Yadava, Jatayu being a Muslim and Nal and Neel, who helped to construct the bridge to Lanka, the Ram Sethu, were from the Vishwakarma community.
The broth was further brewed as Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, UP Minister of Religious Affairs, Dairy Development, Culture , Minority Welfare, Muslim Waqf and Haj commented that the Lord was ‘Jat’, his arguments being Hanuman in the epic showed traits of a ‘Jat’ — jumping in to help in someone’s troubles without knowledge of the issue or the people.
In turn, the Shiv Sena, in their daily Saamana, refuted the debate to be pointless, sarcastically commenting that the BJP is trying to write a “new Ramayana” in Uttar Pradesh and that the Ramayana characters should keep their caste certificates ready. Keeping in line, Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande told AV, “All these discussion happening over caste and creed in our country is foolish. It has become so easy to talk anything about Hindu Gods and Goddesses that people are taking liberties. Lord Hanuman will be remembered as a symbol of gallantry and one should not forget that he has destroyed Ravana’s Lanka. So, according to me, people should remember and discuss and praise his gallantry rather than discussing his caste and creed.”
The controversy didn’t seem to slow down or die a natural death. Recent developments include ex-cricketer and UP Minister of Youth and Sport, Chetan Chauhan, who labelled the God as a “sportsperson” who used to wrestle his enemies and that caste and creed should not be attached to him. Others include BJP MP Kirti Azad who joked that Lord Hanuman was Chinese while another MP Udit Raj said that the deity was a tribal.
With the Lok Sabha polls nearing, this public debate is gaining grounds with more and more comments pouring in, increasing chances of politicising religious heroes among whom, Lord Hanuman, is indeed a name to reckon with in the country. With caste and religion playing a major role in the politics of this country, such debates might be of the polarising sorts, such that may overturn powers. In fact, this debate did not go well with many groups such as the Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha, Rajasthan who sent a notice to Yogi Adityanath accusing him to drag Lord Hanuman’s name for political gain in the elections he was campaigning for. Namdeo Das Tyagi, also popularly known as Computer Baba, also demanded an apology from the Uttar Pradesh CM and his Cabinet Ministers for their remarks. Evidently, this topic is not going down well with all sects of the society, and has high potential to hurt religious sentiments.
With the controversy still brewing, People’s Republican Party President Jogendra Kawade commented, “Now that the 2019 election is knocking on the door, Lord Hanuman will be tagged with a lot of contradicting identities. This is outright harmful for the society. There might be debates on whether Lord Hanuman existed or not, but debates on his religious or communal identity does not make sense.”
When AV tried to contact the BJP leaders, a few leaders refused to comment on this topic, while Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir stated being unaware of this issue. However, BJP MP Amar Sable said, “Lord Hanuman is God. I have respect for him. Nothing else than that!”