The BJP has demanded the resignation of Aam Aadmi Party minister Rajendra Pal Gautam citing a video of him attending an event in Delhi’s Ambedkar Bhavan, where around 10,000 Hindus embraced Buddhism on October 5.
Gautam is seen on stage as attendees take an oath that they would not pray to Hindu gods and goddesses such as Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Rama, Krishna, Gauri and Ganpati.
— Mission Jai Bheem (@MissionJayBheem) October 6, 2022
These are part of the 22 vows B R Ambedkar had administered to his followers. Gautam, who heads the Delhi government’s departments of Social Welfare, SC/ST Welfare, Registrar of Cooperatives and Gurudwara Elections, is seen repeating the vows at the ‘diksha samaroh’ event.
The BJP said the “conversion” event was a bid to spread disharmony in the city. Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari went as far as to call it an organised attempt to spread riots. “This is the anti-Hindu image of Arvind Kejriwal, who is trying to divide and rule in the city.”
“Buddhists are non-violent people, but what the AAP minister is doing is an attempt to spread hatred in the community,” he said.
चलो बुद्ध की ओर मिशन जय भीम बुलाता है।
आज “मिशन जय भीम” के तत्वाधान में अशोका विजयदशमी पर डॉ०अंबेडकर भवन रानी झांसी रोड पर 10,000 से ज्यादा बुद्धिजीवियों ने तथागत गौतम बुद्ध के धम्म में घर वापसी कर जाति विहीन व छुआछूत मुक्त भारत बनाने की शपथ ली।
नमो बुद्धाय, जय भीम! pic.twitter.com/sKtxzVRYJt
— Rajendra Pal Gautam (@AdvRajendraPal) October 5, 2022
Gautam hit back, saying that such comments showed BJP’s anti-national mentality. “If I believe in Buddhism, what is wrong with that? If the BJP has to complain, they can. The Constitution of India gives us the freedom to follow any religion. The BJP is losing ground and it is afraid of the Aam Aadmi Party,” he said.
He also told reporters: “Does BJP have any other issues to speak about? It wants to create disharmony among people in the name of caste and religion. It doesn’t talk about joblessness, Dalits are attacked everyday… I thank Mohan Bhagwat ji for acknowledging this problem and saying that it is dangerous for the country.”
“Everyone in the country has the freedom to practice their beliefs. We should respect each other’s beliefs… People are using only parts of the video. This was not a political programme, it was an event organised by the Buddhist Society of India, which was founded by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. This has happened every year since 1956. This happens across the country every year. When you take deeksha, you don’t talk about any religion, you talk about humanity… BJP leaders should first think straight… Please read the 22 vows properly… No one from the party (AAP) has made any anti-Hindu comments…,” he said.
BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana, too, reacted to the video, saying: “This is the duplicity of the Aam Aadmi Party. In the state where elections are held, Arvind Kejriwal does not get tired of saying Jai Shri Ram and Jai Shri Krishna. But when it’s over, their true face comes out, which is abusing Hindu gods and goddesses.”
The Aam Aadmi Party and the Delhi government did not react to the development.
Later in the day, Gautam released a statement on the issue. “I saw in the media today that BJP is spreading rumours about me. I am a very religious person. I personally respect all gods and goddesses and cannot even imagine disrespecting them through my work or speech. I have not said anything about anyone’s beliefs. I respect everyone’s beliefs. I spoke about education, health, employment, inflation and social equality in my speech. But BJP members are spreading rumours about me. I am very hurt by their actions. I apologise to those people who were hurt because of BJP’s propaganda,” his statement read.