Tamil Nadu govt admits using image of saffron-clad Thiruvalluvar was an error, seeks answers
The department convened a meeting on Monday with principals of the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) who have been given the task of digital content creation and broadcast material for Kalvi TV.
A day after opposition parties criticised the ruling AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu for telecasting an image of ancient Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar in saffron robes on state-run channel, Kalvi TV for school students, the school education department has clarified it was a mistake. The department has also sought an explanation from district-level teachers.
“It was not intentional and it is being sorted out,” said a senior official of the department. “A teacher at the district level did not unfortunately understand the right image to use for a figure who is likely to be politicised.”
The department convened a meeting on Monday with principals of the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) who have been given the task of digital content creation and broadcast material for Kalvi TV. “We have asked for an explanation. We have sensitized our people to be cautious about what they are doing because once it’s on air, we are accountable. The sensitivity of the people should be taken into account,” the official said.
Thiruvalluvar is usually attired in white robes which is the image used widely and officially by the Tamil Nadu government. In a segment to explain Thirukkural, which is a collection of 1,330 couplets on life, ethics and morality, written by Thiruvalluvar, the channel had used an image of him clad in saffron with sacred ash on his forehead. Since schools are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students of low-cost private schools subscribe to lectures broadcast on Kalvi TV which was launched last August.
This was brought to light after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MLA and former school education minister Thangam Thennarasu released a statement on Sunday condemning the ‘saffronisation’ of Thiruvalluvar. In 2019, a controversy erupted when the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Tamil Nadu unit tweeted a picture of Thiruvalluvar replacing his white robes with saffron drawing the ire of Dravidian and Left parties.
“Though they are saying that it is a mistake, it shows the AIADMK in poor light,” said Thennarasu. “Thiruvalluvar’s appearance is known for ages. How does a lower-level staff have the courage to release this image unless the AIADMK is seen as adopting BJP’s thinking? BJP has used this image for political reasons but how can the government use a similar image on an educational channel?” He sought action against the person responsible. Following Thennarasu’s statement, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) chief TTV Dhinakaran tweeted that the ancient philosopher belonged to all notwithstanding religion.
A person in the office of the school education minister, K A Sengottaiyan, said that he had communicated to the department to ensure that the ‘mistake is not repeated’.
In public functions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often quoted from Thirukkural and in 2019 he released a Thai translation of Thirukkural from Tamil in an event in Bangkok which also showed Thiruvallur in a white dhoti and no holy ash.