Goa: Catholic priest booked over remark on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Goa: Catholic priest booked over remark on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj


A Catholic priest in Goa was arrested on 4 August after he made a statement during a sermon pertaining to the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. According to the authorities, Father Bolmax Pereira was accused of violating the Indian Penal Code’s provisions for offending religious emotions.

The case was reportedly filed at 10 p.m. at Vasco police station. Furthermore, complaints were also submitted to Cuncolim and Canacona in south Goa police stations. The perpetrator had already apologised, but stated that his comments about the Maratha ruler of the 17th century had been “taken out of context and misinterpreted.”

Bajrang Dal demanded his arrest and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant promised legal action would be taken against him. The priest from a church in Chicalim, outside of Vasco, was captured mentioning that “Chhatrapati Shivaji cannot be considered as a God” in a recent video. His opinion was denounced by a number of right-wing organisations in the state, including Bajrang Dal.

He later apologised for the controversy surrounding his utterance and the “misunderstanding” that ensued over the name of the Maratha warrior in the press release he issued late on the night of 3 July.

It read, “The purpose and intent of making a mention of the great national hero and valiant warrior during the sermon was to tell devotees and viewers that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was revered by people across the country and abroad cutting across religions, castes, creed, languages. Hence, attributing him (Shivaji Maharaj) to only one religion would reduce his stature and greatness among the people of other faiths.”

He expressed dismay at learning that his sermon had been “maliciously omitted” and only one portion of it had been “selectively taken out of context” while the other part highlighted Shivaji Maharaj’s bravery and valour in defending his people and kingdom from invaders. The deletion of that particular aspect of his views, he claimed, was carried out with the intention of provoking rage and sowing discord among the communities.

“If any individual or organisation has been hurt due to this episode and misunderstanding, I express my deepest regret and hope and pray that the long-lasting bond between communities that have existed for centuries is maintained and grows stronger,” he alleged.

In the meantime, a large group of Bajrang Dal workers marched to the Vasco police station on 4 July night and asked for his arrest. Their agitation at the police station created tension in the vicinity.

The outfit’s Goa co-convener Viraj Desai asserted, “An FIR should be filed against the priest for hurting our religious sentiments. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is no less than God for us.” They continued to protest despite promises that a First Information Report would be lodged, according to Vasco police station inspector Kapil Naik.

CM Pramod Sawant assured the priest will face legal repercussions. He further added that the situation in Vasco was under control and the superintendent of police and other officials were present there. Some demonstrators persisted in their outrage outside the police station after the case had been initiated, while another group dispersed.

The matter even came up during the Goa assembly’s current Monsoon session. While the CM brought up the priest’s observation Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai argued that since the latter has offered an apology, the controversy should be put to rest.

 



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