'You don't have the right to say...': Union Finance Minister to Udhayanidhi Stalin

September 18,2023

A mid a heated controversy surrounding DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin's recent remarks about Sanatana Dharma, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday raised concerns about the implications of a minister making statements that could potentially hurt the sentiments of people.

"You (Udhayanidhi Stalin) have taken an oath as per the constitution and become a minister. During the oath, you clearly state that you won't hurt others' sentiments. Even if it is your ideology, you still don't have the right to say that you'll destroy a religion," Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters.

The Union Finance Minister questioned the presence of P Sekar Babu, the Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE), on the same stage. "How can you protect [Hindu temples] when there is a speech that aims to destroy them? You also took an oath and seem content with the donations made by Sanatana Hindus in the temple hundis (collection box)," she added.

Sitharaman also condemned a seer who announced a Rs 10 crore bounty for Udhayanidhi's head. She emphasised her belief in non-violence, saying, "How can I condone such acts when I firmly believe that there is no place for violence, whether it's in words or actions? Respecting diversity means refraining from violence."

As the controversy escalated, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) initiated statewide protests, attempting to besiege HR&CE offices while demanding the resignation of Minister Sekar Babu.

Minister Sekar Babu had previously asserted that the DMK opposes certain concepts within Sanatana Dharma but welcomes Hindus wholeheartedly and does not hold any animosity towards them.

Nirmala Sitharaman also pointed out that such hate speech appears to be more prevalent against Sanatana Dharma followers because they tend not to retaliate. "They don't have the spine to speak ill of other religions in such a manner. Let's see if they do. Isn't there an issue in other religions? Aren't women mistreated in other religions? Will you dare to speak on it? Do you have the courage?"