A Bharatiya Janata Party minister in Jharkhand was on Friday seen on national TV brazenly asking a Muslim MLA to chant 'Jai Shri Ram', insisting he was a 'Ram wala' and that 'Babur or Timur Lang', the medieval era Muslim conquerors, were not his ancestors.
It all started on a lighter note when C P Singh, the state's urban development minister, and Irfan Ansari, a Congress MLA, were standing outside the Legislative Assembly surrounded by cameramen.
Singh was seen wrapping his arm around Ansari's shoulders and asking him to chant the slogan hailing the Lord.
"Ek baar zor se Jai Shri Ram boliye (say Jai Shri Ram loudly)," Singh told Ansari, who smilingly showed the red'mauli' tied on his right hand. The sacred thread is usually tied by Hindu priests on the hands of believers to 'ward off evil'.
But what had started as good-natured banter soon turned into a heated argument when the minister repeated his demand, saying 'you also belong to Ram. Babur, Timur Lang, (Mahmud) Ghazni, (Muhammad) Ghori were not your ancestors'.
"Ram ka naam badnaam mat kariye. Ram sabke hain (Don't defame Ram. He belongs to everyone)," the MLA shot back.
"People need jobs, roads, electricity. They want drains to be cleaned. Go to Ayodhya and see the condition of Ram there," a visibly agitated Ansari said.
As the tussle appeared getting out of hand, the two lawmakers disengaged and went their separate ways.
A young Muslim man Tabrez Ansari was tied to a pole and beaten up for several hours by a violent mob in Jharkhand's Saraikela-Kharsawan district in June after he was allegedly caught sealing a motorcycle. He died a few days later.
His tormentors were alleged to have forced him to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Jai Hanuman'.
Ansari's death had set off massive public outrage and protests were organised in several cities and towns in the country.
On July 23, 49 celebrity filmmakers, authors and others from different walks of life had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi voicing concern over 'religious identity-based hate crimes' and noted that 'Jai Shri Ram' had become a 'provocative war cry' leading to incidents of lynching.