Tamil Nadu: The Politics behind the defacing of Periyar Statue

Periyar was a rationalist and a modernist who opposed the religious rot in the society and has shown the way of equality and scientific temper.


On Jul 17, 2020 the statue of ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy in the Sundarapuram area of Coimbatore was found coated with saffron-colored paint by unknown miscreants. Oppositions and condemnation statements to such acts have from various circles all over India, including the tweet by Mr.Rahul Gandhi, who condemned this act. Later in the evening, a person named Arun Krishnan belonging to a right-wing sangha Bharat Sena has surrendered himself to the police taking responsibility for this act.

However,  these kinds of attacks on statues of Periyar or Ambedkar in Tamil Nadu is neither a new nor a one-off incident. Periyar was a Social reformer of Tamil Nadu in the 20th century. He built a movement called Self Respect Movement to free the Backward and Scheduled caste people from Brahminical dominance, which later evolved into the much larger Dravidian Movement. He envisioned that everybody should have equal access to education and employment breaking the caste barriers in Tamil Nadu. The political parties like DMK, ADMK which were formed following his ideologies, have been largely successful in disallowing the national parties to penetrate in Tamil Nadu since 1967. However, the National Parties are trying in so many frontiers to enter and capture state power since then.

Periyar: The Anti-Caste, anti-Superstition Rationalist 

Periyar was also a rationalist and a modernist who opposed the religious rot in the society and has shown the way of rationalism and scientific temper. So, in various speeches during his lifetime, he opposed Hindu Gods in the background of the Caste system, superstitious beliefs, and traditional practices. Even today, many of his followers are using this approach to enrich scientific temper and rationalism among the people of Tamil Nadu.

A you-tube channel named ‘Karuppar Kootam’ has been doing a show for a long time aimed at decoding the meaning of Sanskrit mantras in Tamil in the name of ‘Abaasa puraanam’ (Adult content in puranas). In that, one episode about the Kandha Shasti Kavasam of Lord Muruga was released seven months before.

Controversy arose based on that video now, stating that Murugan is the Tamil God and the video is like defaming the whole Tamil population, their culture, and their beliefs. This was used by Bharatiya Janata Party to harvest this controversy for their political benefits. Other than BJP, so many other right-wing groups are trying to use this controversy for their political gains. Hindu Frontier, Hindu People Party, Bharat Sena, Hindu Sena, Bharat People Party, Hindu National Party, Krishna Sena, Rashtriya Sanathana Seva Sangh, to name some, are trying to penetrate the urban population of Coimbatore. There are prevailing competitions among these groups to come to the front. They are using these opportunities to prove their worth. They need this media light to show themselves as the saviour of the Hindu population in Tamil Nadu.

One among them is the ‘Bharat Sena’ of Coimbatore which used its South Coimbatore division head to do this defaming on Periyar statue. This group having the motto of ‘Hinduisation of Politics and Militarization of Hindus’ is using the controversy now. The prime target of these groups to defame the Anti-religious stand of Periyar and the political parties following his ideology. They plan to dechannelize the Hindus from the path of Periyar and Dravidian parties to Hindu parties, especially BJP.

In Tamil Nadu, the people are very sensitive about Tamil culture and language. Though there are other videos regarding other Puranas and other Gods in that youtube channel, these right-wing forces chose this video which is posted 7 months before about Lord Murugan because it is easy for them to target the Hindu population by triggering their cultural sentiments as Lord Muruga is believed as Tamil God. Also, the responsible video has been deleted from the channel after a defaming case filed by BJP and the respective channel head has been surrendered to the police in Puducherry.

The surrendered Bharat Sena head Arun Krishnan has told that he defamed Periyar because the people following him are responsible for the constant defaming of Hindu Gods. “This is the trend started by Periyar only,” he told.

But still, there are a large number of supporters for Periyar, which is preventing the entry of BJP and other Religious politics into Tamil Nadu.

So far so many statues of Periyar and Ambedkar have been destroyed and defamed by Hindutva forces using slippers, black paint, and now saffron paint in order to remove him from Tamil Nadu whose ideology has been blocking their entry. But whenever his statue is destroyed or defamed, a greater number of people start to read Periyar to know who he is and why he is important. But the recent advancement of these Hindutva Forces into Tamil Nadu is alarming and threatening.

The authors are students based in Chennai. Views are personal. 


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April 2024



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