Ahmedabad: Gujarat-based cleric Maulana Mehdi Hasan was on Tuesday arrested for making provocative remarks on Navratri festival and for hurting religious sentiments of one community.
The arrest was made after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) took strong objections to the cleric's remarks and demanded strict action against him. An FIR was also registered against the cleric at the Dariyapur Police Station by a local Shiv Sena leader.
Denouncing his statement, the VHP said it is a deliberate attempt to "malign" Hinduism.
VHP has recently called for a statewide movement in Gujarat to bar Muslim youths from entering venues for 'garba', a traditional dance performed during the festival in praise of goddess Durga, to prevent incidents of "eve teasing".
Hasan, a resident of Rustampura in Thasra taluka of Kheda district, had shot into limelight when he tried to put a skull cap on then chief minister Narandra Modi's head during the latter's Sadbhavna fast in 2011.
VHP is reportedly angry over an interview given by Hasan to a local Gujarati newspaper in which he is quoted as saying that Navratri is the "festival of devils as rapists and drunkards use to participate in it".
The interview was published on Saturday.
Addressing reporters here, the general secretary of VHP's city unit Ranchhod Bharwad said that Hasan's remarks are a deliberate attempt to malign Hinduism.
"When just a few days are left for Navratri to begin, the Maulana said that it is not a religious festival and further added that it is a festival of rakshasa (devils). This is a conspiracy to defame Hindus. This is an attempt to disturb harmony and peace in Gujarat," Bharwad told reporters at a press conference here today.
When contacted, Hasan told a news agency that his remarks were taken out of context and rather he wants Hindus to "keep such elements away from the festival to keep its sanctity".
Bharwad also threatened to launch a statewide agitation if Hasan is not arrested by police.
When asked if VHP or any other organisation has filed any FIR in this regard, Bharwad said that police have taken their application. He was referring to an application given to Dariyapur police station in the city by a local Shiv Sena leader Jitu Solanki today.
Solanki had reportedly asked police to arrest Hasan for allegedly creating enmity between two communities by making such remarks about Hindu gods and festivals.
When contacted earlier, Inspector VN Yadav of Dariyapur Police Station told a news agency that police are looking into the matter.