The Department of Tamil in St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchi, “postponed” an international seminar on ‘Harassment of women as registered in Tamil literature’ after Minister for Tamil Culture ‘Ma Foi’ K. Pandiarajan on Saturday said the government would not allow the “derogatory and slanderous” event to be held.
College principal M. Arockiasamy, however, told The Hindu that the seminar, scheduled for December 6 and 7, was put off as the institution was undertaking relief and rehabilitation work in the areas affected by Cyclone Gaja.
Response to Raja
The Minister made his stand known on Twitter after his attention was drawn to a tweet by BJP national secretary H. Raja, who strongly objected to the seminar, describing it as an attempt to denigrate Tamil and Hindu Vedic literature.
A brochure giving a thematic introduction to the seminar, circulated among colleges, Tamil scholars and academicians across the country, said that there was a strong need to discuss various forms of harassment and violence against women so as to minimise the crimes against them.
Stating that women had been at the receiving end of male domination right from the Vedic period, the organisers invited research scholars to send in their papers and articles for presentation at the seminar.
Some of research topics suggested by the organisers were ‘Male-dominated thoughts in Kamba Ramayanam’, ‘The harassment faced by Surpanakai in Kamba Ramayanam’, ‘Oppression of men faced by Panchali in Villibaratham’, and ‘Denial of women’s identity in religions’.
Taking exception to the topics, Mr. Raja tweeted that the college, under the pretext of an international seminar, was attempting to denigrate and bring disrepute to works of Tamil and Hindu Vedic literature such as Silapathikaram, Manimekalai, Kamba Ramayanam and Villibaratham . “It is an attempt to create communal unrest in the State by Christian missionaries and urban naxals,” he charged.
According to him, this was a war against Tamil language and Hinduism. “We will get ready to face it,” he said, adding that the college could not be allowed to conduct the seminar, which was aimed at abusing Tamil literature and the majority community. Besides demanding that the event be banned, he demanded that the State government protect the honour of Tamil literature by taking action against those behind the event.
“When there were numerous Tamil literary books that glorify women and Tamil culture, a poisonous idea that Tamil literature demeaned women should not be allowed to be sown,” Mr. Pandiarajan said. “The State government will intervene and ensure that the seminar does not happen,” he added.
College defends action
“We (St. Joseph’s) are the forerunners in portraying our culture. We have a long tradition of upholding our values, culture and heritage. We believe in pluralism and respect the sentiments and identities of all. The organisers did not intend to hurt anyone,” Fr. Arockiasamy insisted. He clarified that no one had contacted the college or pressured it to cancel (or put off) the programme.