Hundreds of people in Bali today took to the streets to protest against Arya Wedakarna (AWK), a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) who has been accused of insulting Hinduism, among other allegations of controversial statements.
The controversy surrounding AWK was reportedly sparked by a video that has circulated widely, wherein the politician allegedly misidentified a god as simply a "divine" being.
Even though the statement was reportedly made between 2017 and 2018, a clip has gone viral recently, triggering a protest at the DPD building in Denpasar last week. AWK alleged that he was assaulted during the protest.
Last week's protest was followed by another large protest today.
"If he has received a doctorate and is intelligent then he should not have spoken like that. DPD [members] should not be speaking on matters concerning religion," I Gusti Ngurah Harta, an elder member of the Sandhi Murti School in Bali which also took part in the protests, said.
"[We are] very offended by the insult against symbols worshipped by Balinese."
AWK was also accused of endorsing extramarital sex, which was deemed inappropriate by members of the public as it came from an official. AWK has since said that the statement, which he first stated a few years ago and recently circulated again, was in the context of reminding the youth to use condoms as part of an effort to tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS.
On top of those statements, AWK reportedly professed support for Hare Krishna (HK), a religious organization also popularly known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which has been prohibited from conducting activities by the Bali chapter of the Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI), Indonesia's leading authority on Hinduism, as well as the province's Majelis Desa Adat (MDA) or traditional village council.
Protests against AWK continued today in Denpasar and Klungkung regency, which saw hundreds in attendance. Dozens of local organizations and foundations under Bali Taksu Communication Forum are demanding that AWK step down from his position as a DPD member and said they filed a police report against AWK for blasphemy against Hinduism.