Refusing to budge from his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba, Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand described him as a Muslim ascetic who could not be worshipped like a Hindu deity and said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail.
"They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue," Shankaracharya said addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal.
"Sai Baba was a Muslim 'Fakir' who cannot be compared to Hindu deities or worshipped like them," he said.
Accusing certain forces of "corrupting" the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them, the Jyotishpeethadhishwar Shankaracharya said the Hindu religion needs to be guarded against such forces.
He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood.
Union Minister of water resources Uma Bharti's letter to Swami Swaroopanand explaining the rationale behind her statement yesterday where she had said looking upon someone as a god was people's personal opinion was also read out at the meeting.
Bharti's explanation did not seem to satisfy the seer Shankaracharya who said she seemed not to have seen the pictures where Sai Baba has been depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu.
"Statues of Sai Baba were being installed in homes. What if they were installed in our temples?" he asked.
He said when Uma Bharti became a minister at the Centre he thought a devotee of Rama had become a union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality but he was mistaken as she turned out to be the "worshiper of a Muslim".
Swami Premanand went so far as to even demand Bharti's resignation over the issue.