Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks trigger backlash

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Friday, March 8, 2019. Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are also seen. (PIB/PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks on Lord Shiva during the inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, on Friday triggered a huge controversy.

While speaking at a function after the inauguration, Modi said that Lord Shiva must be feeling "mukt" (free) after the removal of encroachments around the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

"He (Shiva) was not able to breathe," the prime minister said.

The remarks drew sharp criticism from his political rivals as well as from the sants.

"It (Modi's remark) reflects his arrogance... People, who died in Kashi (old name of Varanasi) get moksha (salvation) as the place is blessed by Lord Shiva," senior Congress leader Ajai Rai said.

"Lord Shiva frees everyone... Who can free him?... Such remarks can only be made by a person, who is not familiar with the glorious traditions and culture of Varanasi,'' Rai told DH.

Former Congress MP from Varanasi Rajesh Mishra also echoed similar sentiments.

"The devotees of Lord Shiva have been offended by the remarks," he said.

A senior Hindu cleric and 'mahant' (religious head) of a temple in Varanasi also took serious exception to Modi's remarks and said that they had "hurt" the people's sentiments.

The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor project had drawn criticism from some quarters as there were allegations that several ancient temples were demolished for the same.

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