Days after an FIR was registered against Kalicharan for hate speech and for allegedly derogatory remarks against Mahatma Gandhi, the Chhattisgarh Police arrested the religious leader from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, triggering a war of words between leaders of both states.
An FIR was lodged on Sunday based on a complaint by Congress leader Pramod Dubey alleging that at a ‘Dharam Sansad’ held on December 25-26 in Raipur, Kalicharan delivered a speech abusing Mahatma Gandhi and “promoting tensions between different communities”. Dubey was present at the Sansad where Kalicharan made the speech.
While the FIR was earlier registered under Sections 505(2) (promoting enmity among classes) and 294 (obscene act in public place) of the IPC, the Raipur Police said sections related to sedition (124A) and outraging religious feelings (295A), among others, were added during investigation.
According to senior police officials, while teams were sent to Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra to arrest Kalicharan, he was eventually found 25 km from Khajuraho. “He had rented a room near Bageshwar Dham. He was arrested at 4 am,” said Raipur SP Prashant Agrawal.
#WATCH Raipur Police arrests Kalicharan Maharaj from Madhya Pradesh’s Khajuraho for alleged inflammatory speech derogating Mahatma Gandhi
(Video source: Police) pic.twitter.com/xP8oaQaR7G
— ANI (@ANI) December 30, 2021
Late Thursday, Kalicharan was presented before the sessions court in Raipur, where he was remanded in police custody for two days.
The arrest led to an uproar in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, with state Home Minister Narottam Mishra alleging that the Chhattisgarh Police had violated norms by arresting Kalicharan without informing the Madhya Pradesh Police. In a tweet, Mishra instructed the Madhya Pradesh DGP to register his protest with his Chhattisgarh counterpart.
Madhya Pradesh DGP Vivek Johri said, “I have spoken to the Chhattisgarh DGP and registered my protest on the way the entire operation was conducted.”
Responding to Mishra’s comments, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said, “Strict action will be taken against those abusing the Father of the Nation… People asking questions about the arrest… I want to ask them, are they unhappy that such a man has been arrested?”
Union Minister Giriraj Singh targeted Baghel and said the CM should focus on fighting “extremists” in the state. “I don’t know how he handles law and order in the state, but had he focused on getting even one area free of extremists, it would have been better,” said Singh, who is on a trip to Bhopal.
Chhattisgarh BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal, who was present at the Dharam Sansad on Sunday, tweeted in support of Kalicharan, with the hashtag #ReleaseKalicharanMaharaj.
At the sessions court in Raipur, where Kalicharan was presented after a medical examination, a group of people raised slogans seeking his release.
In Maharashtra, state Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil said the state police will seek Kalicharan’s custody and investigate the cases registered against him over Sunday’s speech. “The use of derogatory language against the Father of the Nation is a big crime. A case of sedition should be registered against him. The Maharashtra Police will investigate the cases registered against him in the state,” the minister said.
FIRs had been registered against Kalicharan at police stations in Akola and Thane city over the speech he made in Raipur. Sources said both FIRs are being transferred to Raipur.
Kalicharan, originally Abhijit Dhananjay Sarang, is a resident of Akola in Maharashtra. He gained popularity in 2020 after a video of him reciting the Shiv Tandav Stotram went viral. A middle school dropout, Kalicharan had in his speech at the Dharam Sansad, besides speaking out against Mahatma Gandhi, claimed that since 1947, Muslims have been attempting to gain power through politics. He also said people should be prepared for a “Hindu Rashtra”.
Meanwhile, an official in the Chhattisgarh Food and Civil Supplies Department was arrested in Raipur for allegedly making derogatory comments against Mahatma Gandhi in a Facebook post. Sanjay Dubey, an assistant food officer, was suspended and later arrested based on an FIR filed on December 27.
Inputs from ENS, Mumbai, Bhopal