People are looking to settle scores with me: Perumal Murugan

Perumal Murugan spoke to B. Kolappan about the controversy surrounding his book and the local protests that have forced him to flee his native town.

January 12, 2015 12:01 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:29 pm IST

Why is there a sudden protest against the novel?

I have no idea. The English translation of the novel is probably the reason. It was published in 2014 and someone who read it could have instigated the local organisations.

Are only Hindutva organisations behind the protests?

I think, for the first time, caste organisations and Hindu organisations have come together on the same platform. The Hindu Munnani and three other caste organisations are running the campaign. Their objective has nothing to do with the book, since they are not ready to relent even after I promised to change the name of the village in the next edition of the book. After I issued a clarification, the local police officials arranged a meeting with the four organisations to find a compromise. I waited, along with the Revenue Development Officer. But none of those who objected to the book turned up.

Why are caste outfits involved in this?

Caste organisations and so-called educationists, who are running schools in Namakkal and Tiruchengode areas that specialise in rote-learning and deny students sporting activities, have been looking for an opportunity to settle score with me as I have been constantly writing against the education system and caste practices. I have also compiled a collection of 32 articles by my students, who had borne the brunt of casteism, in “Saathiyum Naanum.” I have dedicated my latest novel “Pookuli” to Dharmapuri Ilavarsan, a victim of casteism. People refused to buy the novel after seeing my dedication to the book.

Did you not realise that the theme of the novel and making references to a community could land you in trouble?

Our society is steeped in casteism; how can a writer and his writings remain aloof? I have used the word Gounder. But there are so many communities that bear the title. I have avoided referring to any community in “Pookuli.”

Is there any documentary evidence to support the existence of consensual sex, written about in the book?

There is no historical evidence. Details about the custom were passed on orally. Writer Theodore Baskaran and Professor A.K. Perumal have also written about similar customs that prevailed in other parts of the State. For example, [there is] the Thuppatti festival in which men and women participate while covering their faces.

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