After Lenin, it’s Periyar: Statue vandalised in Vellore after BJP leader’s remark, TN parties up in arms
A statue of social activist and rationalist leader EVR Periyar was vandalised on Tuesday night in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore, about 130 km from capital Chennai, according to the state police.
The incident comes a day after statues of Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin were razed after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Left front government out of power in the assembly elections, and hours after political parties in Tamil Nadu raised a storm of protest against BJP national secretary H Raja’s statement on social media that after Lenin statues in Tripura, it was the turn of Periyar statues in Tamil Nadu.
The state police said two persons were arrested in connection with the incident that took place around 9pm. One of them was identified as a BJP worker, Muthuraman, the other person is from the Communist Party of India (CPI), the police said.
The vandals reportedly damaged the nose and glasses of the Periyar statue located inside the Tirupathur corporation, according to reports in the local media.
The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) demanded Raja’s arrest under the state Goonda Act for an attempt to incite violence even as protests erupted across the state.
At several places in the state, activists from the DMK, Left parties and the Dravida Kazhagam (DK) burnt effigies of Raja and demanded strict police action against him. Reports of protests also came in from Pallavaram, Thanjavur, Mannargudi, Erode, Salem, Karaikudi and Tiruchirapally. The protesters said the agitation would intensify if Raja did not tender an unqualified public apology.
The BJP leader had posted the message on his verified Facebook page, ‘Today Lenin’s statue, tomorrow Tamil Nadu’s EVR Ramaswami statue’, which he later deleted.
Stalin was the first to react. “No one can dare to touch EVR’s statue. 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,” he said.
A revered figure in Tamil Nadu politics, Periyar, born Venkata Ramasamy in Erode, fought against caste system and exploitation of non-Brahmin Dravidian people in the southern states. He had formed the Dravida Kazhagam, which became the ideological inspiration for the two major Dravidian parties.
Another vocal Dravidian leader, Vaiko of the MDMK, said: You can bring any support from anywhere in the country and even the centre. You and they cannot come anywhere near any statue of Periyar.”
BJP state unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan sought to distance the party from the controversy. “It is his personal view and not that of the party,” said Soundararajan.
State Congress leader Khushbu Sundar also reacted sharply, asking if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah would expel Raja from the party.
In a tweet, she said, “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... even your shadow cannot touch the statue of Periyar.”
The AIADMK, however, has remained silent over the issue.