On Saturday, social media in Tamil Nadu was abuzz with a viral video that purportedly showed Bharatiya Janata Party National Secretary H Raja using choice abuse against the higher judiciary and the police force.

The video, apparently shot at Meiyapuram in Pudukottai district on September 13, showed Raja rudely attacking the Madras High Court for placing some restrictions on Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in the state. The video showed him getting even more aggressive with the police, apparently for not being allowed to enter a communally sensitive area and to construct a stage on the road.

Describing the police officers as “corrupt” and “anti-Hindu”, Raja can be heard alleging that they were on the payrolls of Christian and Muslim organisations. The video went on to show him offering a higher bribe to the officers, presumably so that they would allow him to have his way.

The reaction of the police, as shown on the video, was curiously meek. All through the conversation, the police officers appeared to be trying to pacify Raja. This was in contrast to the actions of the Tamil Nadu police last month in arrested a 28-year-old woman in Thoothukudi merely for shouting a slogan that criticised the BJP-led Union government.

The Meiyapuram incident is a part of an emerging trend in which BJP leaders in the state have been trying to vitiate the social atmosphere. In January, BJP leaders went after award-winning lyricist Vairamuthu for an article he wrote about the Tamil bhakthi saint, Andal. Claiming that the article was derogatory to the Hindu icon, some BJP leaders publicly called for Vairamuthu
to be murdered. Then too, the police remained mere spectators. The newspaper Dinamani was forced to take down the article from its website and its editor apologised before the Andal deity in Srivilliputhur.

Earlier this year, BJP leader and actor S Ve Shekhar was booked for derogatory remarks on social media about women journalists. Despite cases being registered, Shekhar was not arrested, as the police claimed that he was absconding.

For a long time, Hindutva organisations have used the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations to create communal disharmony in the state, demanding that they be allowed to hold processions on any route of their choice. Such processions in communally sensitive areas have previously precipitated confrontations with Muslim and Christian groups, which is why restrictions are placed on the event.

This isn’t the first controversy Raja has sparked. In May, he threatned on Facebook to “bring down” statues of the Dravidian reformist Periyar in the state. (He later blamed his social media administrator for the post.) On Saturday, he claimed that the video that showed him make obscene remarks against the High Court and police was doctored.

Given the context, merely filing cases against these provocateurs will not act as a deterrent against their hate campaigns. The state administration under former chief ministers J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi was able to ward off attempts to cause communal polarisation with swift preventive and punitive action. The police have to show they mean business by showing a commitment to prosecute such troublemakers, even if they feel an arrest is not warranted immediately. Failing to do so would only strengthen a growing perception in Tamil Nadu that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government is merely acting as a puppet in the hands of the BJP.