Tamil film superstar Rajini Kanth is the kind of wannabe politician who is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Such is the media frenzy over his comments at a function at the 50th anniversary of Tughlak that this was the only magazine which boldly exposed the denigration of Rama and Sita images at a rationalists rally taken out by Dravidar Kazhagam patriarch Periyar E V Ramasamy way back in January 1971. What has made him even more popular is his refusal to retract his comment or say Sorry.
Did he know what he was talking about? Was it to help the cause of the BJP in the run-up to the next Assembly elections still far way in May 2021 in Tamil Nadu? In other words he is seen to have made a politically loaded comment at the urgings of current editor of Tughlak and RSS activist S Gurumurthi.
Now the context. He recalled that long forgotten Salem rally of the DK in which Periyar’s follower made images of Rama and Sita to show how the founder Cho S Ramasamy was bold in reporting that rally and even carrying a cover page cartoon showing Periyar shoeing Rama and then DMK chief M Karunanidhi fanning him. Periyar denied it then and its current crop of successors also cite his denial.
It was not a pointed denial. Writing in Viduthalai, the mouthpiece of DK, Periyar said “its an atrocious lie spread by the Congress” that images of Rama and Sita were denigrated. He has said these images were taken in a procession when it was confronted by Jana Sangh protestors who threw chappals at him.Writing, he says: One chappal aimed at me caught by a DMK worker who used it to shoe the images of Rama Sita.
He has only denied that the images were in the nude and garlanded with chapels. A question of detail. He has also said these images were taken to the rally venue as he wanted to do a Ram Leela like the Ravan Leela in the north where bhakts make a bonfire of the Lankan king’s life size image. Finally, Periyar did not burn any Rama images.
Confronted, Rajini could not produce the copy of that controversial issue of Tughlak which copies were seized when they hit the stands and reprints sold in black as he put it. All he could do was flash a report in Outlook magazine in 2017 which mentioned this incident in passing. How come Tughlak did not have that prized copy from its archives?
Rajinji was not even in Tamil Nadu at that point and he made his entry through films in 1973 and his views were shaped by that had been fed into him by Gurumurthi, one version of that incident.
Rajini in his bid to praise Tughlak, he also said its readers are educated while readers of Murasoli are DMK men. He also recalled how Cho S Ramaswamy boldly resisted 19 months of emergency in 1975.
Suba Veerapandian, leader Dravidar Tamil Iyakka Perivai says that it was then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi who gave sanctuary to opposition leaders like George Fernandes during that period. Ironically, Tughlak was printed from Murasoli and it was Karunanidhi who shielded Cho from imprisonment.
That apart, critics ask why Rajini raked up a long forgotten chapter in the history of Tamil Nadu. Was to help the BJP ahead of the next Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu?
The BJP always polarises voters on religious lines and so an emotive issue like denigration of Hindu Gods by the DK and the DMK will be a handy tool for it.
It did not work even in the May 1971 elections in which the DMK under Karunanidhi, scored a landslide victory with a tally of 188 out of 234 Assembly seats.
Even otherwise, it’s an outdated weapon. When Annadurai broke with Periyar to found the DMK, he opted for all embracing monotheism, one God, one community. True his successor M Karunanidhi was a known Periyar loyalist and atheist. Besides, he was also known for Hindu bashing. His famous comment Hindu means robber in Persian has provoked an angry reaction. And he lost as many elections as he won, whatever his views on Hinduism.
But after the 1973 split, it was the AIADMK under M G Ramachandran which ruled Tamil Nadu longer than the DMK. MGR was a believer and a humanist. When he fell ill, the whole of Tamil Nadu prayed for his recovery. In other words, Periyar’s rationalist movement failed to stem the bhakti tide.
Religion has never been an issue. The first thing M K Stalin did after becoming DMK president was to distance himself from his father’s anti-Hindu image and move towards Annadurai’s One God, One community, much like Narayana Guru’s.
In the last Lok Sabha elections last year, the DMK front trounced the AIADMK-BJP, indicating the mood of Tamil Nadu voters that they are more concerned about bread and butter issue than religion. The final word is yet to be said as to whether Rajini will take the plunge at all before the next Assembly elections. Even if he does, he cannot divide people in the name if Hindu revivalism in this land of Periyar.