Controversy over Mother Teresa: Dia Mirza, Meenakshi Lekhi in war of words

Controversy regarding RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's comment over Mother Teresa is refusing to die down.

Mumbai: Controversy regarding RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's comment over Mother Teresa is refusing to die down.

A war of words erupted on Wednesday between actress Dia Mirza and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi over the latter supporting Bhagwat's remark that conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind Mother Teresa's service to the poor.

Lekhi had claimed that Mother Teresa had admitted in an interview that her job was to bring people to the fold of Christianity.

Mirza, whose father was a Catholic, took to Twitter to slam the leader.

She tweeted: "Shame on you Meenakshi Lekhi you contort personal faith/work to validate a statement that should be condemned. MotherTeresa."

Her comment led to a war of words between the two on Twitter with Lekhi replying: "Shame on you for not having the robustness to face the facts or accept the truth."

The actress retorted by tweeting: "I hang my head in shame."

Mirza's last tweet on the issue was: "My father was Catholic, my mother is a Bengali, I was raised by my Muslim step father and I'm married to a Hindu. I am Indian."

Accusing Congress of trying to make 'political capital' out of RSS chief's remarks, Lekhi had claimed yesteday that Mother Teresa had herself in an interview said that her job was to bring people to the fold of Christianity.

Speaking to reporters outside Parliament House, the BJP MP said politicisation of such comments needs to be avoided and objected to remarks by Congress members and several other leaders on the issue.

"All my request to Jyotiraditya Scindhia, Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi and several others is don't describe people, the way you want to describe them," Lekhi had said, as per PTI.

She claimed that in a book, Mother Teresa had herself said that she worked to bring people to the fold of Christianity.

"And kindly read Navin Chawla's book, who was an old Congress loyalist, on Mother Teresa, where Mother Teresa herself during an interview says that 'a lot of people confuse me as social worker, I am not a social worker. I am in the service of Jesus and my job is to spread the word of Christianity and bring people to its fold'," Lekhi had added.

When asked if she was trying to justify Bhagwat's comments, Lekhi had said she had nothing to do with what he had said.

"I am no one to justify. Who am I to justify Mr Bhagwat? I've nothing to do with it. Government has nothing to do with what Mohan ji has said," Lekhi had added.

Bhagwat came under fierce attack from Christian institutions and non-BJP parties for his controversial remarks on Mother Teresa that also echoed in Parliament yesterday where the Opposition sought to target the Government.

Bhagwat stoked the controversy when he made the remarks while addressing a function in village Bajhera, 8 kms from Bharatpur where he inaugurated 'Mahila Sadan' and 'Sishu Bal Grah' in the NGO Apna Ghar for helpless women and children.

The Missionaries of Charity trashed Bhagwat's claim, saying he was 'misinformed'.

"He is misinformed. It should be absolutely clear that conversion was not going on when Mother was there, nor it is going on now. The whole motive is to serve the poor selflessly, bring joy and dignity into their lives," Sunita Kumar, spokesperson of the organisation founded by Teresa in 1950, had told PTI in Kolkata.

Teresa, who died in 1997 in Kolkata, had won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and was beatified as the "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta" in 2003.

Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto)'s Sister S M Cyril, who knew Teresa closely, had said it was silly and stupid to think like that.

The Catholic Church had voiced its strong resentment over Bhagwat's remarks, dubbing it unfortunate.

"It is quite unfortunate that the services of such a world renowned Nobel Prize laureate and Bharat Ratna awardee like Mother Teresa being dragged into unwarranted controversies," President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis had said.

On the other hand, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had slammed Bhagwat's comments as reflective of a 'prejudiced mindset' and sought action against people making such assertions.

"This reflects perverted mind of people making such statements," the JD(U) leader had told reporters in Patna.

"Condemn Mohan Bhagwat's uncharitable remarks against Mother Teresa. Please respect her dedicated service to the poor and under privilege,” Congress leader Digvijay Singh had said on Twitter.

When Congress members led by Jyotiraditya Scindia had sought to raise Bhagwat's remarks during Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu stood up to say that the Government had nothing to do with such statements.

"Every individual organisation has the right to speak outside," he had said, as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed Scindia when he continued to raise the issue.

When Opposition members insisted on raising the matter concerning Mother Teresa, the Speaker had staunchly disallowed it.

"There is no one from the institution to respond. I also have some authority. I am not allowing it," she had observed, apparently not happy with the attempt of Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress to raise the issue again.

(With PTI inputs)

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