In India, a famous acting couple were prevented from visiting a temple over a decade-old tweet in which one of them claimed to eat beef, a sin in some branches of Hinduism. The extremists then organized a demonstration in front of the holy place that degenerated into clashes with the police. The controversy is now flooding social networks, with some demanding that those who eat meat be prohibited from entering temples.
By Côme Bastin, RFI correspondent in Bangalore
It happened on Tuesday, September 6 in the state of Madhya Pradesh, in central India. Actor Ranbir Kapoor and actress Alia Bhatt, a Bollywood couple who got married last April, wanted to visit the Mahakaleshwar temple, one of the holiest of those dedicated to Lord Shiva. The problem is that since his last film Brahmastra, Ranbir Kapoor has been in the crosshairs of extremists.
The reason: He tweeted in 2011 that he sometimes likes to eat beef, which is considered a sin. The Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Hindu nationalist movement VHP, then organized a demonstration in front of the temple. Some 50 activists, according to local press, forced the couple back before being dispersed by the police.
The networks are flooded with petitions to prohibit those who eat meat from entering the temples
The controversy then broke out nationally and on the Internet. The media echoed it because they were Indian movie stars and, above all, because there is no way to filter the good from the bad devotees in a temple.
Far from backing down, Hindu nationalist groups are taking the confrontation to social media. Tweets multiply demanding that those who eat meat be prohibited from entering temples, although no one specifically explains how to do it, and calling for a boycott of the film.
Chakrapani Maharaj, head of the extremist All India Hindu Mahasabha movement, claims that unless celebrities make a public apology, Hindu organizations around the world will ban them from temples.
On the other hand, netizens are outraged by this campaign, especially since for some Hindus, eating beef is considered normal.
The instrumentalization of Hinduism for political purposes
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party came to power, Hindu nationalist movements no longer feel constrained and try to impose a monolithic and extremist interpretation of religion.
However, not all Hindus identify with it as it is a diverse spirituality. Furthermore, this extremism is exploited politically. In this case, legislative elections are approaching in Madhya Pradesh, a BJP stronghold.
The State Minister of Culture justified the protest against the actors on Thursday in the name of respect for believers. He took advantage of the occasion to announce that from now on the identity card will be required at the entrance of certain Hindu festivals, to prevent Muslims from taking advantage of them to seduce and convert young Hindu women. This has triggered a new controversy.