Amid the saffron fury and street protests over his claim that Lord Ram was non-vegetarian, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Jitendra Awhad sought to defend his remark, citing a research paper on the Valmiki Ramayana by IIT Kanpur. However, he also sought forgiveness from the people, saying he regretted his remarks if they hurt anyone’s sentiments.
An NCP old-timer and a key aide of the party patriarch Sharad Pawar, Awhad insisted that he did not put forward his own interpretation in the matter but based his opinion on an ‘authentic’ version of the Valmiki Ramayana. Speaking at a press conference in Mumbai, Awhad pointed to the extensive research conducted by IIT Kanpur on this version of the Ramayana.
“Look, I am telling you I did not bring my own interpretation or views into it. I did not incorporate any ideas of my own. I based my opinion on whatever is written in the Valmiki Ramayana,” the NCP leader said, stoutly defending his position in the face of a firestorm of protests from the BJP and the country’s seer community. However, saying he regretted his remarks if they hurt public sentiments, the NCP leader said, “I do express regret if my words offended someone’s feelings. I did not wish to hurt anyone’s sentiments.”
Stressing that he did not alter or misinterpret the Valmiki Ramayana, which was scripted eons back, Awhad outlined the six khands (chapters) of the ancient text — Balakand, Ayodhyakand, Aranyakand, Kishkindakhand, Sunderkand, and Yudhkand. “Valmiki Ramayana has six khands. What does the 120th verse of the Ayodhya khand say? My remarks were based on the verses from Valmiki Ramayana. Please read the Valmiki Ramayana and you will know for yourself,” the NCP leader said.
“I have an authentic version of the Ramayana, which was written eighteen hundred years ago. This book was printed in Kolkata in 1891. IIT Kanpur has even published a research paper on it. And what I said is already in the public domain,” the NCP leader added. He asserted that his words were a reflection of the ideas and principles that he holds dear, reiterating, however, that he did not intend to offend anyone’s sentiments.
On the complaint filed against him in Maharashtra, Awhad said, “Let a case be filed against me here, US or anywhere else. I don’t fear cases. I stick to my words and practise what I preach. I am not in the habit of saying things I don’t mean.” Earlier, on Wednesday, Awhad ruffled many fathers claiming that Lord Ram belonged to the ‘Bahujans’ (people in the majority) and was non-vegetarian, contrary to common belief.
“Lord Ram is ours. He belongs to the Bahujans. Lord Ram, who hunts and eats (flesh) is ours, we belong to the Bahujans. Some people make us out to be vegetarians. But we follow the ideals of Lord Ram and today we consume mutton. This is in keeping with the ideals of Lord Ram,” Awhad said while addressing an event in Shirdi on Wednesday. “Ram was not a vegetarian, he was non-vegetarian,” he added.
Outraged over Awhad’s controversial statement, BJP MLA Ram Kadam filed a complaint against the NCP leader in Mumbai. “It is their mindset to hurt the sentiments of the Ram bhakts. However, we won’t tolerate it if they make fun of our Sanatan Dharm for votes. The realisation of a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya doesn’t seem to have gone down well with the ghamandiya (arrogant) alliance,” Kadam said.