A Gujarat minister has written to rape convict Asaram Bapu's ashram "thanking" them for celebrating February 14 - popular as Valentine's Day - as "Matru-Pitru Pujan Divas". Bhupindersinh Chudasama, the Education Minister of Gujarat, has congratulated the controversy-riddled ashram for its "great work" in producing better citizens and also wished it success.
In a letter in Gujarati, the education minister thanks the ashram for organising its annual "Matru-Pitru Pujan Divas" or "worship your parents" day and sends best wishes for the "noble act".
"Great work in making young boys and girls and unmarried men and women better citizens," Mr Chudasama writes.
The minister has made headlines in the past for attending a "felicitation" of exorcists in 2017. Skewered on social media and by rival parties, Mr Chudasama had called the event a "gathering of worshippers of divine power, not those who spread superstition".
This time, he is being criticised for writing on his official letterhead to the organisation of a controversial spiritual leader who is serving time for rape.
Asaram Bapu, a self-styled godman, has been jailed for life after a court pronounced him guilty of raping a schoolgirl at his ashram. The 77-year-old has appealed against the sentence.
Valentine's Day has often been targeted in the country by rightwing groups and parties like the Shiv Sena, who argue that such celebrations are inimical to the tradition and culture of India and are bad influence on young men and women.
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