Activist community

‘Rationalists’ and ‘ritualists’ clash over community feasts in Odisha on lunar eclipse day

Bhubaneswar: Tension reigned in the city of Berhampur and the state capital of Odisha after ‘rationalists’ and ‘ritualists’ clashed over food consumption at community feasts on the day of lunar eclipse on Tuesday, prompting police to use soft force to control the situation.

While activists from Bajrang Dal and other organizations strongly protested the rationalists’ consumption of food at a meeting in Berhampur, similar tensions erupted at Lohia Academi and near Lower PMG in Bhubaneswar.

As the two groups clashed and argued over the holding of community feasts on the day of the lunar eclipse, police in force were deployed outside Lohia Academy in Bhubaneswar as well as the Rationalist meeting place in Berhampur.

While activists protesting the community party reportedly threw rocks and mud at the rationalists, police reportedly resorted to a light charge of lathi to control the situation and prevent any major outbreaks. A dozen activists were also arrested while demonstrating for a community holiday as a precaution, according to reports.

As those gathered at Lohia Academy accused the outfits who protested the consumption of food at their meeting of engaging in stone throwing in an “uncivilized” manner, activists in the Hindu outfits hit back and accused the rationalists of ‘deliberately tried to create trouble by organizing community parties.

Some members of the Rationalist group were reportedly injured in alleged rock-throwing by Bajrang Dal militants, sources said, adding that windows and flowerpots at Lohia Academy were also damaged.

The ‘rationalists’ claimed that they had organized a meeting and arranged food for the attendees in a legal manner and no one should object. “We stay true to what we believe. Anything unscientific should not be practiced,” they said.

“We have not violated any law or acted against the Constitution,” they added.

Earlier, seers and religious leaders in the state took umbrage over a recent incident of chicken biryani being served at a community feast in Bhubaneswar during a solar eclipse by a group of people describing themselves as rationalists to shatter “blind beliefs”.

At least four FIRs had been lodged in separate police stations in Puri and Cuttack by certain religious formations against the “rationalists”.

“They are ignorant. Their actions go against the basic tenets of Sanatan Dharma. The very food (chicken biryani) eaten by these people during the eclipse could be the bane of their lives,” said Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saswati.

He said people who conceive of new theories, violating basic principles, “harm their own lives and harm society as a whole.”