What is your understanding of Sanatana Dharma based on, Madras High Court asks Udhayanidhi Stalin
The High Court also directed Udhayanidhi to submit a typed copy of his speech. Udhayanidhi's comments had sparked outrage after he mentioned the need to eradicate Sanatana Dharma at a conference.
The Madras High Court has directed Tamil Nadu Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin to provide the basis of the research behind his contentious speech about eliminating elements of Sanatana Dharma. These comments were made by Justice Anitha Sumanth during a hearing of petitions questioning why Udhayanidhi, HRCW Minister Sekar Babu, and MP A Raja continue to hold office despite their statements about 'Sanatana Dharma'.
Justice Anitha inquired about the foundation of Udhayanidhi's understanding of Sanatana Dharma and the research supporting his equation of Varnashrama Dharma with Sanatana Dharma. The Court also instructed Stalin to submit a typed copy of his speech.
On September 2, at a conference organized by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Artists Association in Chennai, Udhayanidhi Stalin stated that certain elements needed to be eradicated, akin to how diseases like dengue, mosquitoes, malaria, or coronavirus are eliminated. This statement led to significant public outrage.
Members of the right-wing organization Hindu Munnani subsequently filed three writ petitions in the High Court, objecting to Stalin's remarks. They sought an explanation from Stalin, Sekarbabu, and A Raja as to how they could continue to hold public offices after participating in a conference advocating the annihilation of Sanatana Dharma. The petitioners argued that Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism should be considered as one, and they contended that the DMK leaders could not justify their comments by claiming they only spoke against Sanatana Dharma and not Hinduism.
Senior Counsel P Wilson, representing Udhayanidhi Stalin, argued that the writ was not maintainable because Stalin had not violated his oath of office. Wilson further stated that Stalin had merely called for the eradication of certain problematic aspects of Sanatana Dharma, particularly the 'Varnashrama Dharma,' which relates to duties based on the four varnas or class and caste divisions.
Wilson informed the Court that much of what Stalin quoted was consistent with Dr. BR Ambedkar's calls for the eradication of caste-based division, and that both Ambedkar's speeches and Stalin's Sanatana Dharma speech were primarily based on a proprietary text published by Banaras Hindu University between 1902 and 1937.
"The principles of Varnashrama are rooted in the Manusmriti, upon which Sanatana Dharma is built," Wilson argued. He pointed out that the caste divide prescribed by these principles was so deeply entrenched that even the President of India was not immune from it, citing an incident where former President Ramnath Kovind and his wife were denied entry into a temple due to their Dalit status.
The Court then requested Wilson to provide copies of the invitation cards for the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Artists Association conference where Stalin delivered the speech in September of the same year, along with a typed copy of the speech itself.
When asked to present these texts, Udhyanidhi argued that it would be in violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which states that "No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself." He also alleged that the petitioners had affiliations with a party associated with the BJP and accused them of using the court as a platform for political debates.
Udhayanidhi clarified that his remarks regarding Sanatana Dharma were not intended to show disrespect to any religion and that he opposed discriminatory religious practices.