Well-known seer Tridandi Chinna Jeeyar Swamy's alleged remarks on Tribal deities Sammakka and Sarakka have angered the tribals across Telangana.
Various tribal and Dalit organisations and leaders have lodged complaints with the police seeking action against him. They also demanded that he tender an apology. Some have even called for expelling him from Telangana.
A controversy erupted after a video of the Chinna Jeeyar in which he allegedly mocked tribal goddesses Sammakka and Sarakka went viral on social media two days ago.
Chinna Jeeyar, who is considered spiritual guru of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, allegedly questioned the origin and relevance of Sammakka and Sarakka saying they did not descend from heaven like other Brahminical gods.
Tribals worship Sammakka and Sarakka as goddesses and once in every two years they gather at Medaram in Mulugu district to celebrate the valour of legendary warriors.
The seer's controversial remarks have come to light a month after Sammakka Sarakka jatra, said to be Asia's largest tribal fair. Over a crore devotees participated in the four-day fair, celebrated as Telangana's official festival.
Sammakka and her daughter Sarakka died while fighting against the Kakatiya empire. The legend has it that they opposed levy of taxes on tribals during drought conditions by the then Kakatiya rulers in the 12th century and died while fighting against their Army.
In the video widely circulated on social media, the seer remarked that Sammakka and Sarakka are mere forest and village deities. "Who are Sarakka and Sammakka? Are they gods who descended from Brahma Lokam? What is their history? They are merely forest and village deities. Let the people who live there worship them," he said.
The spiritual leader, however, noted that even educated people and big industrialists are worshipping them and have even named banks after them. "This has become a business," remarked Chinna Jeyer.
The remarks have sparked protests in Mulugu, Warangal, Mahabubabad and other districts in the state. Condemning the seer's remarks, the protestors took out rallies and lodged complaints with the police.
The Telangana Tribal Association lodged a complaint against the seer at the Chikkadpally police station in Hyderabad. Police officials assured association's state general secretary R. Sriram Nayak that they will look into the video and seek legal opinion.
Tribal rights organisation, Tudumdebba demanded that Chinna Jeeyar be booked under SC, ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. It condemned the seer's remarks saying it hurt their sentiments and Sammakka and Sarakka symbolise self-respect of the aboriginal tribals.
The organisation demanded an unconditional apology to the tribals and warned that if he failed to apologise they would launch an agitation.
Tudumdebba leaders alleged that the seer encroached thousands of acres of government land and that he had no right to comment on the deities.
Bahujan Samaj Party's Telangana state coordinator R.S. Praveen Kumar also condemned Chinna Jeeyar's remarks and alleged that he has been crossing the line. "Did Ramanujacharya teach you to speak in such a derogatory manner? You have been constantly making disparaging remarks against Bahujan-Adivasi gods and food habits," said Praveen Kumar.
The seer had earlier landed in a controversy with his remarks ridiculing people who eat meat. He had said that people who eat pork would think like pigs, and people who eat mutton would follow the herd.
Mulugu MLA Danasari Anasuya, popularly known as Seethakka, slammed Chinna Jeeyar for his derogatory remarks about tribal deities. The Congress leader visited Medaram along with tribal priests and demanded that the seer take back his remarks and apologise to tribals.
Seethakka said a seer from Andhra has made arrogant remarks against Sammakka and Sarakka who symbolise the statehood struggle of Telangana.
"In the name of the Statue of Equality, you have been doing business and collecting a fee of Rs 150 from the visitors to serve your own interests. There is no fee to enter the temple of Sammakka and Sarakka," tweeted Seethakka. She was referring to the 216-feet statue of Ramanujacharya installed by Chinna Jeeyar at his ashram in Hyderabad.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month unveiled the statue commemorating the 11th-century Saint Ramanujacharya. President Ramnath Kovind had also unveiled a 120-kg gold statue of Ramanujachrya at the same venue.
Condemning Chinna Jeeyar's remarks, state Girijana Shakti leader Sharat Nayak led a protest at Arts College on the campus of Osmania University. He demanded that the seer be expelled from Telangana.