Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya on Tuesday said he had spoken on a particular verse in Ramcharitmanas and not about Lord Ram or any religion, but refused to retract the comments which have triggered a row and embarrassed his party.
In an interview with PTI, Maurya, considered a prominent OBC leader in Uttar Pradesh, largely stuck to his stand while saying that he had commented on the holy book in his personal capacity and not as a member of the SP.
"These were my personal comments.... At the time of giving the statement, I had said this is my personal statement," he said, replying to a question.
Maurya kicked up a controversy recently by alleging that certain verses of the Ramcharitmanas "insult" a large section of society on the basis of caste and demanded that these be "banned".
Asked if he still stood by his statement, the SP leader replied, "Have I said anything wrong that I will go back?"
"I give respect to all religions, but no religion or anyone can have the permission to hurl abuses.... I have spoken about banning only a particular portion in which insulting comments have been made on women, tribals, Dalits and backward classes. I have spoken about removing only those parts of the 'chaupai'," he added.
Asked about leaders of his own Samajwadi Party who have criticised his statement, Maurya said, "Those who have opposed me belong to a certain section of society," and drew attention to their surnames.
He further said he only spoke about "objectionable comments", and if that is linked to Lord Ram, religion or Ramcharitmanas, then it showed the "narrow mindset" of the critics. "People are associating the comments with Lord Ram, God, religion and Ramcharitmanas. This shows their narrow mindset."
Talking to PTI over the phone, Maurya, when asked about a case being registered against him at the Hazratganj police station, said, "Now the pot is calling the kettle black (ab ultaa chor kotwaal ko daante). I am the one who is pleading, and it is me at whom abuses are being hurled at."
He further claimed that he had been demanding the government put a ban on objectionable words.
Maurya told PTI that those who are speaking against him in the media belong to the class of people who hurl abuses. "The class which gets abused is not against me," he added.
The former Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister also claimed that 80 per cent of the people on social media were with him.
Asked if he had any discussion with Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on the issue, Maurya said, "I have just finished a programme in Sant Kabir Nagar. When I have not spoken on behalf of the party, then why should I discuss (it with Yadav)".
"These were my personal comments. I speak to the party's national president when I speak at the party's forum," he added.
Ramcharitmanas, an epic poem in Awadhi language, is based on the Ramayana and has been composed by 16th-century Bhakti poet Tulsidas.