Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party leader H Raja’s Facebook post on bringing down statues of social reformer EV Ramasamy, also known as Periyar, has drawn sharp criticism from leaders across party lines, with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader MK Stalin demanding his arrest.
On Tuesday, hours after a statue of communist icon Lenin was brought down in Tripura, allegedly by BJP workers, Raja said on Facebook: “Today Lenin’s statue, tomorrow Tamil Nadu’s EVR Ramaswami’s statue.” By evening, the police had arrested two people for allegedly vandalising a Periyar statue in Thirupattur near Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district.
Stalin demanded action against the the BJP leader under the Goondas Act for trying to incite violence. “No one can dare to touch EVR’s statue,” Stalin said, according to the Hindustan Times. “H Raja’s comments are done to incite violence. He has been repeatedly doing this. He should be arrested and Goondas Act slapped against him.”
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan said on Twitter that political leaders should not waste their energy on the matter. “We could allow Periyar statues to be removed if Raja promises to remove all statues,” he said. “Worshipping is different from following.”
Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S Ramadoss and Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary K Balakrishnan also demanded that Raja be taken into police custody, The Hindu reported.
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder and Dravidian leader Vaiko threatened to cut off the hands of anyone who tried to pull down Periyar’s statues. “You can bring any support from anywhere in the country and even the Centre,” he said, according to the Hindustan Times. “You and they cannot come anywhere near any statue of Periyar.”
State Congress leader Khushbu Sundar asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah would expel Raja from the party. “Give a date to break the statue of Periyar, I will be there... let me see if you have the guts to surpass me and many like me...” she said on Twitter.
Raja later deleted the post, but the Tamil Nadu BJP unit has tried to distance itself from his comments, calling it his personal opinion. “His statement about removing Periyar’s statue was his personal opinion,” said state president Tamilisai Soundararajan, according to The Indian Express. “The BJP also had no role in destroying Lenin’s statue in Tripura.”.
Who is Periyar?
Periyar is a revered figure in Tamil Nadu for fighting the caste system and speaking out against the exploitation of the Dravidian people in the south. He was the founder of the Dravida Kazhagam, the ideological basis for two major Dravidian parties of the state.