Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Buddha walked to Japan: Deb

Debraj Deb and Our Calcutta Bureau May 01, 2018 00:00 IST
Agartala: Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb has suggested that Gautam Buddha had "walked on foot across India, Burma, Japan, Tibet and other countries".

"We are celebrating Buddha Jayanti here. Gautam Buddha preached the message of peace, unity and solidarity, walking on foot across India, Burma, Japan, Tibet and other countries. India is a land where a king becomes a monk and preaches peace across the world. It speaks about the great Indian tradition and culture. I respect that tradition. I pray that everyone can live together in peace, harmony and embrace the lessons of Gautam Buddha," Deb said.

The chief minister made the appeal to mark Buddha Purnima.

While Buddha's message did reach the Far East, historians expressed doubts whether he had "walked" as far as the chief minister has indicated.

"Buddha didn't travel to either of these countries during his lifetime. Buddhism spread to these places much later through other people," said Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, a former professor of history at the erstwhile Presidency College in Calcutta.

Deb has landed in several controversies through his remarks, including a claim on the use of the Internet and satellite during the Mahabharata era and a comment that the 1997 Miss World, Diana Hayden, was not worthy of being crowned a beauty queen. Although Deb later regretted the comment on Hayden, controversies continue to hound him.

He went on to claim that civil engineers should join the civil services but not mechanical engineers. He asked unemployed youths to earn money by milking cows and rearing pigs and poultry instead of running after government jobs.

On Monday, the additional secretary to the chief minister, Milind Ramteke, said Deb's meeting in New Delhi on May 2 was a "pre-scheduled" one. "The trip has yet to be finalised," he said.

He was responding to reports that said Deb was summoned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to Delhi in the wake of his controversial comments.

An official told reporters that Deb had received an invitation to attend an event preceding Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary that will be celebrated for a year. "There is an event on May 2. The chief minister is scheduled to attend it along with all other chief ministers of the country. The invitation letter arrived a month back," the official said.

Deb was also invited to a meeting in New Delhi on May 4 with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. It will be attended by the chief ministers of the northeastern states, an official in the chief minister's office said.

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