Goa: Catholic priest booked over remark on Chhatrapati Shivaji

A video of the priest, attached to a church at Chicalim near Vasco town, went viral recently in which he said that "Chhatrapati Shivaji cannot be considered as a God".

Panaji: A Catholic priest in Goa was on Friday booked over a remark on Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that he made during a sermon.

Father Bolmax Pereira was charged under provisions of Indian Penal Code for hurting religious sentiments, police said. The case was filed at 10pm, officials said.

Officials said the case has been lodged at Vasco police station, though complaints were received in other police stations as well, including Cuncolim and Canacona in south Goa.

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Earlier, Pereira had tendered an apology but had added that his statement on the 17th century king was taken “out of context and misinterpreted”.

Despite his apology, the Bajrang Dal sought his arrest, while Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said action would be taken against him as per law.

A video of the priest, attached to a church at Chicalim near Vasco town, went viral recently in which he said that “Chhatrapati Shivaji cannot be considered as a God”.

Several right-wing organisations in the state, including Bajrang Dal, condemned his remark.

On Thursday late evening, Pereira issued a statement in which he expressed regret over the controversy surrounding his remark and the “misunderstanding” that arose due to the mention of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“Hence, attributing him (Shivaji Maharaj) to only one religion would reduce his stature and greatness among the people of other faiths,” he said.

The priest said that he was shocked to learn that his sermon was “selectively taken out of context” to show only one part of the statement while the other part praising Shivaji Maharaj’s valour and heroism as he protected his people and kingdom and stood against invaders, was “maliciously omitted”.

He said he believed that the omission of the part of his remarks was aimed at inciting anger and creating enmity between communities.

Fr Pereira said, “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 has existed since centuries is maintained and grows stronger.”

Meanwhile, several hundred Bajrang Dal workers marched to Vasco police station on Friday evening seeking his arrest. The area was tense due to their agitation at the police station.

“An FIR should be filed against the priest for hurting our religious sentiments. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is no less than God for us,” Bajrang Dal Goa co-convener Viraj Desai had said.

The agitation by Bajrang Dal workers continued despite an assurance that an FIR will be lodged, Vasco police station inspector Kapil Naik said.

Action will be taken against the priest as per law, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told reporters, adding that the situation in Vasco was under control with the superintendent of police and other officials at the site.

After the case was filed, while one group of protesters dispersed, some people continued to agitate outside the police station, officials said.

The issue had figured during the ongoing Monsoon session of the Goa Assembly.

While CM Sawant mentioned about Pereira’s statement, Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai said the matter should rest since the priest had tendered an apology.

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