Columnist Abhijit Iyer-Mitra Held For ‘Ridiculing’ Konark Temple
Security analyst Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who was arrested by Odisha police in Delhi earlier on Thursday, 20 August, has been granted bail on a surety of Rs 1 lakh and has been ordered to join investigation in Odisha by September 28.
Iyer-Mitra was arrested by police on Thursday for allegedly making derogatory remarks against the Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha, ‘hurting the sentiments’ of several people in the state.
In a video uploaded on social media on Saturday, 15 September, Iyer-Mitra was seen criticising the 13th century temple, in what seems to be a satirical video.
“I am in the famous Konark Temple premises. This is not a temple but a humple where people are humping. See these sculptures... Women with women, men with animals. Can this be a holy place? Not at all. This is a conspiracy against Hindus by Muslims who want to keep us down. Jai Sriram. In our new Ram temple, such obscene sculptures will not be there.”Iyer-Mitra said in the video
Iyer-Mitra shot the video during his visit to the temple with former parliamentarian and his friend, Baijayant Panda. Panda took Iyer-Mitra and journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh on a chopper ride over the Sun Temple, the Puri Jagannath Temple and the Chilika Lake, drawing criticism across the political spectrum.
Later, Panda's chopper was seized by the police for allegedly flying over the Chilika Lake, an 'eco-sensitive' zone. The industrialist-turned-politician, in turn, accused the Odisha government of trying to "handicap his movement."
Iyer-Mitra’s Video Draws Flak
Legislators of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and opposition Congress had on Tuesday, 18 September, demanded action against Iyer-Mitra for what they called were “derogatory” remarks.
Stating that Iyer-Mitra has ‘ridiculed’ the Sun Temple, BJD MLA Sanjay Dasburma had said, "It (Mitra's video) is an insult to the state and its existence. Action should be taken against the man."
Leader of Opposition and Congress leader, Narasingha Mishra, had said, "There are two video clips which show a non-Odia, RSS man standing in front of Konark Temple making comments."
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said in a tweet, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Meanwhile, washing his hands off Iyer-Mitra, BJP legislature party leader KV Singhdeo said, "He (Iyer-Mitra) is not a BJP man. The RSS has nothing to do with the proposed Ram Temple at Ayodhya. It is also not in the BJP's agenda. Let us not do politics over it."
Konark Sun Temple is a 13th century monument built by King Narasimhadeva I. It is renowned for the intricate artwork on its walls.
Iyer-Mitra will be produced in Delhi’s Saket Court for transit remand.
As soon as the Odisha Assembly assembled at 10:30 am on Tuesday, BJD members had protested against the remarks made by him.
The ruling party members staged a dharna in the well of the House and later near Mahatma Gandhi statue on the Assembly premises.
As per information available at the Biju Patnaik International Airport, Iyer-Mitra flew in along with Panda in a chopper on 15 September.
BJP member Pradip Purohit also criticised the ruling party and accused it of trying to divert attention from the alleged scams in the House.
(With inputs from PTI)