Brahmins attacked in Tamil Nadu as Periyar statue vandalism triggers violence, protests

The attack on Brahmins is viewed as a retaliatory move after senior BJP leader H Raja posted, and removed later, remarks that Periyar’s statues in Tamil Nadu will fall next following communist icon Vladimir Lenin’s in Tripura.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2018 22:05 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Statue vandalism,Brahmins attacked,Periyar
A statue of social reformer EVR Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar, was vandalised in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

Upper-caste Brahmins were assaulted on Wednesday in Chennai after the desecration of a statue of Dravidian icon EV Ramasamy, popular as Periyar, in Vellore in response to a senior BJP leader’s inflammatory Facebook post, Tamil Nadu police said.

This happened on a day the Madras high court directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure law and order across the state after vandals desecrated the statue of rationalist leader Periyar on Tuesday evening.

According to police, four people on motorcycles attacked at least eight Brahmins in the Triplicane and Mylapore neighbourhoods of Chennai. These men, allegedly members of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, shouted “Love live Periyar” slogans and cut the sacred threads, or poonal, that the Brahmins wear across their shoulders, said an officer who asked not to be named.

The culprits allegedly chose these two sites, known for the popular Parthasarathy and Kapaleeswara temples, to send the message that they won’t tolerate any disrespect to Periyar, the rationalist social reformer who fought for the rights of non-Brahmin Dravidians in southern India.

The four men surrendered in the evening and allegedly told police they were responsible for the violence.

Earlier in the morning, two petrol bombs were thrown at the BJP office in Coimbatore. No one was injured. Police said they took four men into custody for attack.

Police have also arrested BJP worker, identified as Muthuraman, and a CPI leader in connection with the Periyar statue desecration in Vellore. The BJP expelled Muthuraman as the situation remained tense amid protests across the state.

The attack on Brahmins is viewed as a retaliatory move after senior BJP leader H Raja posted, and removed later, remarks that Periyar’s statues in Tamil Nadu will fall next following communist icon Vladimir Lenin’s in Tripura.

Raja apologised for his comments, saying his social media team erroneously posted the remarks against Periyar and he had removed the people responsible for it. “Damaging statues of Ramasamy cannot be condoned and I do not support this,” the BJP leader said.

But most political parties, barring the ruling AIADMK, dismissed his apology. The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) organised a protest rally on Mount Road in Chennai and a large number of supporters courted arrest, demanding immediate arrest of the BJP leader under the “goonda” law.

Raja’s effigies were burnt at several places in Tamil Nadu, including Chennai.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko described the BJP leader as a habitual offender.

Speaking for the government, state fisheries minister D Jayakumar said the matter should be put to rest since Raja has apologised. BJP state unit chief Tamilisai Soundararajan said the remarks were Raja’s personal views and he has apologised. The party distanced itself from the controversial comments.

Actor-politician Kamal Haasan described the statue controversy as a ploy to divert people’s attention from real issues such as setting up the Cauvery Management Board for sharing the river’s water with Karnataka. Film star Rajinikanth, another political newcomer, didn’t comment.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 21:59 IST