Sri Paripoornananda Swami, head of Sri Peetham, a Hindu muth at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh and Kathi Mahesh, a film critic and Dalit activist, who were externed from Hyderabad by the police on 9 and 10 July on the grounds that they were creating law and order problems and causing religious disharmony, have patched up their differences and extended solidarity with each other.

The police in both Telangana and Andhra have heaved a sigh of relief after both of them softened on an issue which threatened to cause major public unrest.

Swami crossed swords with Mahesh over the latter’s remarks against Ramayana and Lord Rama, first on social media and then on some local TV news channels. Mahesh, who claims to be a rationalist, was responding last week to another rationalist, Babu Gogineni’s social media postings that Lord Rama was not worth emulating by the present generation on the ground that he represented feudal and undemocratic value systems. Going a step beyond, Mahesh, a leading Telugu film critic, dubbed Sri Rama as anti-women.

In a social media post last week, Mahesh said that Sri Rama’s behaviour with his wife Sita was “condemnable” and “autocratic”. Mahesh also said that Sita would have been happier with Ravana, instead of living with Lord Sri Rama. These Facebook comments were picked up by a Telugu TV channel last weekend, triggering massive upheaval from Hindu groups.

Dozens of groups and activists have not only condemned the comments on social media, but also held protests seeking action against Mahesh for insulting Lord Sri Rama and hurting sentiments of a vast majority of Hindus. Some groups, including Bajrang Dal, have alleged that Mahesh was a mole of Christian groups, out to tarnish the image of Lord Rama.

Leading the protests, Sri Paripoornananda, who heads a Hindu religious muth at Kakinada in East Godavari district of Andhra, came to Hyderabad on Sunday and announced that he would lead a march from the city to Yadadri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple, covering a distance of 45 km on Monday. Thousands of people gathered at a place where the Swami camped, to join the protest march. However, the Hyderabad Police, acting on the orders of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao arrested Mahesh on Monday and served him externment notices, throwing him out of the city for six months, for causing breach of peace in the city. The police handed him over to AP police so as to send him to his native Chittoor district. But, the AP cops sent him to Bangalore city. The cops booked cases against him under IPC Section 505 (2).

At the same time, the police house-arrested the Swami and prohibited him from meeting people outside. This caused loud protests from Dalit groups who maintained that the police had adopted different standards for the two. Surepally Sujatha, a Dalit poet and activist led a campaign, saying that Mahesh was sent out just because he was a Dalit.

Following this, the Hyderabad police arrested Swami and sent him to his native place, Kakidana. Surprisingly, Mahesh protested Swami Paripoornanda’s externmnet, saying that it was undemocratic. Mahesh also posted a video singing a song praising Lord Rama. Mahesh made it clear that he was not a Christian and that he respected Lord Rama.  Swami Paripoornanda too said that Mahesh was a good person and likened him to Valmiky Maharushi, who was a hunter in the beginning but later turned into a saint and wrote the Ramayana.

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