Roman Catholic Priest Fr. George Ponniah was booked for making controversial remarks against the Hindu religion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He has been accused of hate speech and spreading enmity between religious groups.
A video of him delivering the statements has been widely circulated on social media and has drawn massive flak from netizens, who demanded Ponniah's arrest. Reportedly, around 30 complaints were filed against him across several districts, including the Bharatiya Janata Party members.
On July 18, an event was held by minority organisations in Arumanai town in Kanniyakumari district, in memory of Stan Swamy. During his speech, the priest alleged that the Tamil Nadu minority welfare ministry and minority commission had denied the groups from conducting prayer meetings, The Indian Express reported.
Ponniah said he, like many others, had campaigned tirelessly for the DMK party and convinced minority organisations to vote in the recent state elections but has been ignored by them after coming to power.
"Within 60 days after this government assumed charge, we were made to protest for our rights. Before elections, they promised to safeguard our rights. The votes they [DMK] got are alms provided by the minority communities," he said, reported The Indian Express.
The priest further criticised Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board Minister Sekar Babu, IT Minister Mano Thangaraj, and other members for working only in the favour of the Hindu community.
While commenting on a politician who had removed his slippers before entering a temple as a mark of respect, Ponniah said in their culture, people wore slippers to make sure 'they don't get their feet dirty and get any disease because of Bharat Mata.'
The comments triggered a row. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kuzhithurai condemned his remarks.
Taken Out Of Context
Ponniah apologised after his alleged provocative remarks created a stir on social media and assured that he would never pass such comments in the future. However, the portions of speech were edited and taken out of context, he claimed.
"By watching that edited video, many people have misconstrued that I spoke against Hindu religion and beliefs. The people who spoke at the meeting and I never said anything of that sort. If at all our speech had hurt the sentiments of my Hindu brothers and sisters, I wholeheartedly apologise for it. I want to say to my loving Hindu brothers and sisters that even in the future, I will never pass such comments," he said, according to The Indian Express.
According to The Hindu report, the priest has been booked under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act and several sections of IPC, including 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups of religion, race, etc.), 295 A (malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of any class by insulting religion or religious beliefs), 505 (ii) (statements promoting enmity, hatred between classes) and 506 (i) (criminal intimidation).