On Onam eve, Amit Shah’s Vaman Jayanti tweet kicks up a row

Onam tweet: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan calls it humiliating, demands apology; BJP says Vaman Jayanti celebrated in TN, Andhra, Karnataka.

Written by Liz Mathew , Shaju Philip | New Delhi/thiruvananthapuram | Updated: September 14, 2016 8:20 am
New Delhi/ Thiruvananthapuram “Heartfelt good wishes to all on the occasion of Vaman Jayanti… Vamana: the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.” Amit Shah’s tweet

BJP PRESIDENT Amit Shah’s Vaman Jayanti tweet on the eve of Onam raised eyebrows Tuesday, with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan calling it “humiliating” for the people of Kerala and the festival of Onam.

Shah’s tweet — with a picture of Vaman putting his leg on the head of Mahabali, the mythical Asura (demon) king — comes soon after an article in Kesari, the Malayalam mouthpiece of RSS, kicked up a row with its claim that Onam was originally celebrated as the birthday of Vaman, one of the mythical incarnations of Vishnu.

While many political observers criticised the article as an attempt by Hindutava forces to appropriate a cultural festival, Kerala BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan said the article was the writer’s personal view.

The BJP chief’s tweet — “Heartfelt good wishes to all on the occasion of Vaman Jayanti…. Vamana: the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu” — triggered mixed reactions on social media. Many warned that Onam, celebrated as a cultural and harvest festival by all communities in Kerala, should not be given religious overtones.

BJP leaders in Delhi contended that Shah’s greeting was not meant for the people of Kerala. “Vaman Jayanti is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, so the party chief has greeted (people) who celebrate it as Vaman Jayanti. He will greet Keralites on Thiru Onam day, which is tomorrow,” said R Balashankar, head of BJP’s central committee on training and publications. “Onam is a social festival in Kerala and the BJP does not subscribe to any new interpretation of the legends of Mahabali and Onam.”

Greetings sent out on the occasion by Kerala BJP leaders did not refer to Vaman.

Pointing out that the concept of Onam represents equality, CM Vijayan said Mahabali is considered a symbol of the Malayalis’ dream of a social order based on equality. “By praising Vamana who sent him down to netherworld (hell), Shah has pushed down the entire social values Mahabali represented. Shah, who has defamed Kerala and Keralites, should withdraw his statement and apologise,” he said in a statement. Giving a communal colour to the festival would endanger the secular nature of society, he added.

OPINION: Why the Sangh needs to leave the legend of King Mahabali alone, for Kerala’s sake

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the BJP president had insulted Malayalis. “It shows an ulterior attempt to give an upper caste touch to the festival by denying the traditional concept of the festival. Malayalis will reject this move with contempt.” he said.