Incendiary remarks by BJP lawmaker spark uproar in Chhattisgarh

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A video that went viral on 27 April 2024 has ignited a firestorm of controversy involving Rikesh Sen, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Vaishali Nagar in Chhattisgarh's Durg district. In the footage, reportedly captured during a Hanuman Jayanti event on April 24 at Patel Chowk in Durg, Sen is seen making inflammatory remarks about "slitting throats" of those involved in religious conversions.

The contentious statement, as reported by the media, has Sen saying, "Hindu Navvarsh (Hindu New Year) should not be celebrated only for a day. When you go out in the morning, you should have 'tilak' on your forehead, and Hanuman Chalisa should be recited daily. Even if you have to sacrifice your life to protect Sanatan and Hindutva, do so, but never let yourself get converted. If anyone attempts religious conversion, then slit their throats."

Sen's media aide, Santosh Mishra, confirmed that the MLA stood by his comments, despite being out of station when the video surfaced. The opposition Congress party swiftly condemned Sen's remarks, with Sachin Pilot, the party's Chhattisgarh in-charge, slamming the statements as detrimental to a healthy democracy. Pilot called on the Election Commission to act against the BJP legislator for his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric.

It is important to note that it is election season in India and inflammatory speech like the one delivered by Sen is a violation of the model code of conduct as well. The BJP MLA has been no stranger to making controversial statements and this incident adds to Sen's growing reputation for courting controversy.

Just days earlier, he was filmed disrupting couples' rendezvous at a garden within his Vaishali Nagar constituency. Sen was seen shooing away couples from the park, prompting some to demand the reopening of OYO Rooms, an app for booking hotel rooms, to provide them with privacy. It was Sen, who in December 2023, had carried out a campaign and had raided OYO Hotels in his constituency alleging that the hotels were facilitating illicit and immoral activities which were impacting the local culture adversely.

One individual confronted Sen, saying, "We came to spend time and chat, you had the OYOs closed, so we have come to the garden." Another person, accompanied by their girlfriend, voiced concerns over the lack of private spaces, stating, "You have had everything closed down, at least have the OYOs opened. We need a private place to meet."

Sen justified his actions by claiming he had received complaints about couples engaging in "indecent activities" in the park. He also shared the video on Facebook, conveying a message that public spaces should not be used for "obscenity."

Sen's inflammatory remarks and interventions have drawn widespread criticism even from local media, with concerns raised over the potential impact on communal harmony and personal freedoms. The BJP lawmaker hinted at further action after the Model Code of Conduct concludes, mentioning the formation of a "Laila Majnu" squad to address similar incidents in the future.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the authorities and the Election Commission to see if they will address Sen's divisive statements and maintain law and order in the region.