Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments on an article on Vairamuthu and Andal: ‘Hindus should not be treated like this’

Responses to an article on the hounding of the Tamil writer over recent remarks on the eight-century mystic poet.

Up in arms

This article attempts to paint an emotional outburst as caste-based opposition, and has singled out the Brahmin community (“Hounding of poet Vairamuthu by BJP, Brahmin groups shows Tamil Nadu’s politics is becoming communal”). The author’s assumption that it is only the Brahmins who are opposed to the comments on Andal is mischievous and sidelines the main issue.

In Tamil Nadu, Brahmins have been at the receiving end of hatred and systematic attacks. Can you please offer one valid reason why Vairamuthu delved into research on the origins of this great Tamil icon, held in high esteem as an Alvar? Why could he not analyse her literary works alone? A neutral reponse will go a long way in establishing the author’s credentials as a journalist. – PMN Krishnan

***

This is a controversy stoked by vested interests. A rabble rouser has created a racket. Those who have read Naalayira Divya Prabhandham and appreciated and enjoyed the bhakti bhava would never stoop to the use of vulgar language and belittle the virtue of a mother.

The Alvars, particularly Thirumangai Mannan, have portrayed themselves as consorts of Lord Vishnu. No one casts aspersions on and everyone enjoys their bhakti bhava.

Meera, even after her marriage, longed to be in the company of Lord Krishna, her devotion transcending the moral stranglehold of the society she lived in. Andal too dedicated herself to Lord Ranganatha. There is nothing to be ashamed when she herself declared she was a devotee slave of the lord, one who wished to be in his servitude.The word deva (lord) dasi (slave) was mischievously interpreted by those who are protesting. There are many words which have over the centuries lost their true meaning. This is one such instance. – Venkatapathy Balaram

***

Vairamuthu should apologise in front of the deity. What prevents him from doing so? Irrespective of caste, all worship Andal. – Ramani Rajaram

***
Vairamuthu has not done anything to hurt the image of either Andal or the Hindu religion. Be that as it may, now that he has clarified the context of words and expressed regret for the heart burn caused to the believers, we should gracefully drop the issue. Asking him to apologise before the deity is far-fetched. Even the gods we worship would not like such humiliation to be inflicted on him. Let us exercise restraint. – Sundaram Raman

***

If this is about freedom of speech and if the author firmly believes in that, a strong case must be made out for revoking the over 30- year ban on Satanic Verses. One cannot always do what is convenient and suits one’s biases. – Sriram Ramarathnam

***

Vairamuthu had no business making demeaning comments about Hindu gods and goddesses. In fact, all Scroll.in’s coverage and opinions on politics are biased against Hindus. Hindus are hurt and they are entitled to protest against the concerted campaign to demean the religion by political parties like the Congress, communists and a few so-called NGOs, who are funded by a foreign agencies. Added to this are dishonest news agencies and portals who are silent when Hinduism is demeaned and Hindus’ interests are trampled upon. When others protest, it is secular, but when offended Hindus protest, you dub them communal! If this is the kind of journalism that is to be construed secular, soon journalism will lose its credibility among the public. – Raghavan KS

***

This article aggregates the situation. Vairamuthu not only hurt people’s sensitivities but was also arrogant. His actions should be condemned, not praised. – Ravishankar

***

Even this article is one-sided. The writer seems knowledgeable, but gives only partial details. There is no need to associate Andal with Brahmins alone, she is widely respected by many communities. Vairamuthu is human, he can make mistakes, as he did on this occasion. But when he does make a mistake, he can also face criticism. The author needs to strike a balance. – Ganesan Muthukumar

***

Many facts were not analysed by the author of this article. The reaction from the Hindu community was immediate and spontaneous, the BJP and other Hindu outfits entered the picture later. It is common for the separatists, leftists, so-called liberals with the support of minority outfits to degrade Hindu gods and tradition. Earlier, the response from Hindus used to be minimal. But there has been an awakening because of which the reaction was instant and spontaneous. – Sridhar Seshadhri

***

Everyone talks about freedom of expression when people speak ill of Hindu gods. But this right vanishes into thin air if someone says anything about gods of other religions. There is a concerted attempt to make fun of Hindu gods and take shelter under freedom of expression. How come all the political parties speak in one language whenever our gods are insulted by people like Vairamuthu? Don’t take us for granted anymore. Tamil Nadu had been spoiled by DMK by fanning anti-Hinduism. Please understand the strategy is long past its sell-by date. – R Sethuraman

***

Blaming Brahmins has been the tactic of non-believers to whip up discord amongst people. Non-believers want to spur violence. However, being level headed, the Brahmin community is against violence. You would be doing a great justice if this reality is brought out in your news coverage and emphasis. – Kasturirangan KS

***

Why should Vairamuthu give false references and say things that would hurt the sentiments of many Hindus? When people speak against Hinduism, why should it be accepted? – Hema Rajesh

***

This is a meaningless observation made without real knowledge about the ongoing agitation. It is not the BJP or Brahmins that are behind the protests, it is the Hindu community as a whole that believes in the spiritual power of Andal and feels hurt by the irresponsible and half-baked analysis of Vairamuthu. Please don’t portray wrong information on a global platform. – lawramki

***

I don’t believe in religion. But Vairamuthu should have have avoided speaking about Andal. A public poet should avoid appearing in favour of other religions. Forget BJP, Hindus in general are hurt without doubt. Mine is a non-Brahmin family and some of its members are very upset. – Venu Jagan

***

Not a word is said in this article about the pent up anger of a minority community ruled by Dravidian politics for the last 50 years. Despite this, thanks to the self-preservation instincts of Brahmins, they have prospered in every sphere. Today, you expect them to take insulting comments on their feminine role models? What happened to the protectors of heritage, which you are supposed to champion?

To conclude, here is a suggestion that may appeal to the poet in Vairamuthu, if he is listening, and if the heart is in the right place. A sweet poem from his pen would have hit home. The man has delivered masterpieces and he can do it at will and this community is a pragmatic one and will understand and let bygones be bygones, as they have done for 50 years. – Prakkash NT

***

This piece is an attempt to gloss over Vairamuthu’s lack of sensitivity and integrity.The subject of discussion was Andal’s Tamil. His wanton insensitivity took him to enquire into her antecedents, which had no bearing on her scholarly verses. His lack of integrity made him invent a non existent paper from an American university. Such a combination of insensitivity and lack of integrity had vitiated public discourse for so long that free speech suffers in the hands of wanton mischief makers who masquerade as intellectuals. – S Venkataraman

***

With due respect, this article is biased and has been written in a manner that deliberately overlooks the Hindu sentiments and facts of the issue. Andal is a Hindu goddess. Calling her a devadasi is a blunder tantamount to abusing the goddess.
This has hurt the sentiments, belief and purity of Hindu worshippers. Vairamuthu is only a poet and should know his limits.
So when Hindus protest against such abuse, you are calling that communal? In this article, the author has not mentioned once that Vairumuthu made a mistake. The punishment is never decided by the person who commits it. Vairumuthu has expressed his regret twice. When Dinamani has issued an apology, why has Vairamuthu not done that?

I request you to provide a balanced original view of any issue instead of writing to appease a few. – Shankar

***

The author is making a distinction between Brahmins and other communities so as to confine the protest as a Brahminical conspiracy. The comments by Vairamuthu were unwarranted and insensitive to say the least. – SV Subramonian

***

First of all the poet has no business to talk about such Alvars. Can he talk like this about other religious figures? He is seeking cheap publicity. Hindus should not be treated like this. – Srinivasa Raghavan

***

Brahmins in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, are a marginalised and minority group. They are passive and neutral. Their main strength is their education, honesty and a willingness to work hard. Today, many Brahmin children go abroad for education and work as the reservation system has destroyed their prospects in India.

This being the case, they don’t have time to indulge in something inane like the hounding of Vairamuthu. If anything, most Brahmins are his fans and admire his poetic capabilities.

The BJP is not a Brahminical organisation. It is the political arm of the RSS, which is basically a Hindutva organisation. Its members are a mix of Brahmins and other castes. Most importantly, they are strong in the North and weak in Tamil Nadu.

The Brahmins are not a politically active community and they stay away from controversy. They are least bothered about Vairamuthu’s comment on Andal. At best they like a good debate, but from an intellectual point of view, not a political or communal one. The author should ponder on these things before putting pen to the paper. – V Narasimhan

***

Your article smacks of arrogance. It is biased, anti-Hindu and anti-Brahmin. You are using the word fanatical to denote Hindus and Brahmins. It is in bad taste. I am a Hindu and a Brahmin but like all others like me, I treat fellow human beings with respect, irrespective of religion, caste or creed. I regret having read this article which spreads hate. No more Scroll.in for me. – Devarajan V

***

Vairamuthu has been continuously insulting Hindu sentiments. He mixes his intellectual love for Tamil with insult to Hindu gods and his closeness to Dravidian parties. He hides behind a Hindu name though he is Christian. Many people have been doing this for the past 60-70 years with out any reaction from Hindus. Now the accumulated effect of the insult has come as an outburst. – Raju

***

If we say anything derogatory about another religion, there is a backlash. All Opposition parties are in cohorts claiming we are creating communal disharmony. But if someone says derogatory things about Hindus or their deities and if BJP objects, it is Hindutva. What logic is that? It is so unfortunate that the anti-Hindu Congress and DMK have cultivated morally corrupt people and placed them in high positions. – Narayanan Subramanian

***

This lacks understanding of the background. First of all, this is not the first time that Vairamuthu has made derogatory remarks on Hindu deities. He has allegedly questioned the credentials of Rama earlier too. Second, the research that he quoted has been tracked and has been found to lack lacks research bibliographic credibility. Third and most important is that the forum and occasion was blatantly inappropriate. The month of Margazhi is a sacred one for Tamils, when Andal’s magnum opus Thiruppavai is recited not only Tamil Nadu but also in Andhra and Karnataka. So his remarks tear into the hearts and souls of devotees.

Calling this a Brahmin backlash is absurd, to say the least. The anguish is not confined to Vaishnavites or Brahmins. This has been the proverbial last straw from Vairamuthu and his Dravidian supporters for the fraternity of devout Hindus, not just Brahmins.

Brahmins in Tamil Nadu were always primary victims of the movement started by so-called atheists like Periyar and his ilk. There were supposedly instances when unruly followers of Periyaar used to forcibly cut the tufts and holy thread of Brahmins on the streets of Tamil Nadu. But the victims have never reacted politically or physically. Nor have they ever been aristocratic like Peshwas.

Moreover, can anyone point out a single instance where a Brahmin was involved in attacks on Dalits in Tamil Nadu? How many cases have been filed under Atrocities Act against Brahmins as against other so-called upper castes?

Brahmins and other devout people are certainly outraged and have been vocal but have not resorted to violence like a Karni Sena.

Also, why bring in the BJP? In the huge protest meeting held in Chepauk on January 15, the BJP representative was just one of 50-odd speakers. So this has got nothing to do with BJP or any other party. And, why align only BJP with this condemnation? S Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi and TTV Dhinakaran have also condemned the statement.

The narrative is simple. Tamil Hindus have been putting up with the audacity and arrogance of so-called rationalists since the Justice Party was launched prior to Independence. Their successor outfits, the Dravidian parties, have been continuing this tradition, and with impunity. Hindus will not take this lying down anymore.

Many Tamil lovers would no doubt acknowledge Vairamuthu talent as a poet. But this time he has deliberately or unwittingly stirred a hornet”s nest. If it is unintentional, he should have no hesitation in rendering an unconditional apology to the deity. Please do not posit this as Brahmins versus Vairamuthu. It is in fact a case of devout Hindus vs bogus rationalists. – Raghavan Rajagopal

***

Brahmins are a minority in Tamil Nadu, so for the protests to be so massive, there had to have been involvement from other castes too. All these years, consolidating anti-Brahmin castes has been the mainstay of Dravidian parties. – Neelunat

***

Though the BJP actively opposed Vairamuthu for his unwarranted comments on Andal, the Brahmin community has not joined hands with them. Though a majority of the protesters were Brahmin, other communities also participated.

There are atheists and believers everywhere, but nowhere else are the sentiments of believers hurt this way. It has become a culture to portray that all god-related matters are connected to Brahmins and thereby the BJP. The BJP is working for Hindutva, not for Brahmins. Please note that almost all top leaders in BJP are not Brahmins and in almost all political parties, some top leaders are Brahmins. – Durairajan KS

***

Whenever there is an assault on Hindus and their sentiments, it becomes so easy to call it a case of freedom of expression. What about the freedom of Hindus? Why is it that when we express our angst, it is termed communal? Why the hypocrisy?

By making this a case of Brahmin and non-Brahmin, you are trying to creative a divisive mindset.

Vairamuthu does not have any depth in Tamil but airs comments on various topics. It is like an empty vessel making noise. We Hindus are accommodating. The lyricist has to first of all apologise to even have moral rights to say Andals name again. Hope to see a more logical, analytical and sensible article next time which is free of bias and divisive intentions. – Arthi Pattabiraman

***

Vairamuthu is aware that Andal is considered a deity. He should not use the word devadasi in connection with her and should apologise for that. – Sundarlal

***

Two things in this article have irked an on-the-fence reader like me who likes to scan the news to see what’s happening. The author’s style of writing and in particular, this article on Vairamuthu makes me wonder, what right does the author have to write about communal politics and the role that parties like the BJP play towards creating communal disharmony, when the article’s headline shows in bold that the author and publication encourage it?

He has no right to take sides on a current issue, especially if he is a reporter. Taking the side of Vairamuthu, irrespective of whether he is right or wrong, and turning the whole issue into one about caste is questionable. – Anusha Ramji

***

H Raja’s reaction was deplorable but the language he used was no different from that of the early Dravidian leaders, including Karunananidhi in the 1950s and ’60s.

National awards mean little and all one needs to do to find out is ask the best writers in Tamil about Vairaumuthu’s talents. One can predict that the response will be uniformly negative.

Incidentally, the reference and citation was false and Sruthisagar Yamunan as usual prevaricates as he is a prisoner of his ideology. Vairamuthu had been responsible for a provocation which could have been avoided.

In spite of the claims made for Tamil’s continuity as a living language, most Tamils (who can hardly pronounce simple Tamil words) will not understand Andal’s poetry and certainly never Sangam poetry.

All you need to read David Shulman Tamil to understand the abysmal understanding of the region’s cultural history, irrespective of caste! – Srirangachary Varadachary

***

I find this article to be no different than what is portrayed in other media. Why is that only Hindus and their gods are targeted? Have you seen any other religion in the world that has been attacked for centuries, but still stands strong on its own? It has become a trend among the so-called intellectuals to offer bias reports to be in limelight.

Even for a moment if it is to be believed that Vairamuthu made a passing reference, what stops him from swallowing his pride and apologising for hurting sentiments? – Shekhar Iyer
***

There was no need for Vairamuthu to comment on Andal’s personal life while talking about her versatility on Tamil language. Having chosen to write about it, he should have verified the truth on the foreign university article he cited. Also, there was no devadasi system in eighth century. It came into vogue only in the 10th century. The original meaning of devadasi different. In 19th century, devadasis were exploited by the big sharks of society. Today’s generation, which grows up seeing movies and serials but does not read, know this meaning of the word devadasi, not the original one. Vairamithu should have explained the true meaning. – Sridharan AM

***

It is the bane of Tamil Nadu that despite it being a reservoir of intellectuals, its progress and development have been crippled because of the internecine wars in the name of caste, religion and language.

No language is the sole property of any one caste or religion. Hinduism as such has shown equal respect to all castes. Among the Alwars and Nayanmars there are Dalits and other castes. Nammalwar, hailing from the Vellalar community, is worshiped as the foremost among Alvars and the first in the Guruparamparai . There are many other such examples. – Pr Srinivasan

***

D Selvaraj, a Left-leaning writer, published a blasphemous short story Nonbu in 1965 where he portrayed Andal as a devadasi born to Periyazhvar and a Devadasi immorally. D Selvaraj slipped this writing silently into North Indian universities. He tried to bring this book to the mainstream in Tamil Nadu a few years back. Manomaniam Sundaranar university rejected his request, as it found the book as a propaganda material with no historical basis or literary value.

In my opinion, Vairamuthu tried to resurrect this publication and tested the ground with his speech on Andal. Seeing the repercussions, he quickly tried to justify that his research was based on a foreign publication. Vaishnavites do not even talk politics, but are deeply wounded by this kind of sensational rot. None of the kings, scholars and Acharyas have a differing account on Andal and it is best that Vairamuthu apologsze and retract his words.

There is an attempt to portray this as a Brahmins protest. Vaishnavites believe in their respective caste only with regard to their duties, but are proud of their kulam. So people are standing up for their kulam and the divine mother Andal. –Sudarsan

***

I think that Vairamuthu was sincere and genuine in his explanation. Why should he choose a big forum to express a negative opinion when he could have chosen to do this any other time in the past. We will never improve. – Sitaram

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The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

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Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

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“Who does?”

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“So I’m a bad girl.”

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“What bad things?”

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“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

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“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

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The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.