Hyderabad: A shutdown was being observed on Tuesday in the Basara town of Telangana’s Nirmal district over alleged derogatory remarks made by atheist Renjarla Rajesh against Hindu Goddess Maa Saraswati.

Demanding arrest of Renjerla Rajesh, a leader of Bharatha Nasthika Sangham, protesters were staging a sit-in on the road near the Gnana Saraswati Temple. Priests and temple workers also joined the protest near the main gate of the temple.

Condemning the remarks made by Rajesh, villagers and traders were also staging rasta roko (road blockade) on the Nizamabad-Bhainsa highway. The protest led to a traffic jam. Raising slogans, the protesters were demanding Rajesh’s arrest.

Shops, business establishments and educational institutions were closed in response to the bandh call given by some Hindu organisations. They were demanding that the police invoke the Preventive Detention (PD) Act and arrest Rajesh.

Basar town on the banks of Godavari River is known for the Saraswati temple. It is considered as a destination for the Akshara Abhyasam ritual. Before the commencement of a child’s formal education, a special prayer is performed for Goddess Saraswati. After the ritual, devotees request the priest to make their children write their first letters on a slate.

Vikarabad district police had last week arrested state president of Atheist Society Bairi Naresh and another functionary Dolu Hanumanthu for allegedly making derogatory comments against Hindu Gods, mainly Ayyappa Swamy.

Naresh made the comments at Kodangal on December 19 and a video clip of his speech had gone viral on social media three days ago.

This had sparked state-wide protests by Ayyappa devotees, who had demanded immediate arrest of Naresh and stringent action against him. They had also lodged complaints with the police against him in various places.

Later, the Karimnagar police arrested another man Bairi Agni Tej for social media posts derogatory to Ayyappa Swamy.

According to police, he had made a derogatory post on Facebook on December 30. He was arrested for hurting the religious sentiments of Ayappa devotees and for creating disharmony.

The BJP and other Hindutva organisations have been targeting the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) for allowing atheists to spread the anti-Hindu sentiment among the people by encouraging atheists to hold meetings in villages under the garb of Ambedkar organisations.

The BRS, however, has dismissed the allegations and made it clear that the government will act tough against anyone hurting the religious sentiments of any section of the society.

Bharatha Nasthika Sangham leaders Bairi Naresh and Renjarla Rajesh have been facing the ire of these groups for making derogatory comments against the Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

By Shadab

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