STATE OF PLAY Comment

In Tamil Nadu, a renewed push for Hindutva

The present crop of BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu has latched on to the death by suicide of a Class 12 girl, who was studying in a Christian missionary-run institution as a resident inmate in Thanjavur district. File

The present crop of BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu has latched on to the death by suicide of a Class 12 girl, who was studying in a Christian missionary-run institution as a resident inmate in Thanjavur district. File

BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu appear to be zealously working to spot issues that could be woven into their Hindutva narrative. They have come a long way from the time the old guard would only sell the BJP “as a party with a difference and shorn of lumpen elements” and be reluctant to declare its pro-Hindu agenda. Back then, State politics was dominated by Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi.

The present crop of leaders is losing no opportunity to posture itself as a guardian of the Hindus, whose interests, it claims, are being compromised by the ruling DMK. Presently it has latched on to the death by suicide of a Class 12 girl, who was studying in a Christian missionary-run institution as a resident inmate in Thanjavur district. Though the police arrested a sexagenarian warden under the Juvenile Justice Act, as the girl alleged she was forced to do chores in the hostel, the issue took a political turn when a 45-second video clip surfaced. In the clip, the girl is heard saying that “two years ago”, her parents were asked if they would convert her to Christianity. A male voice is heard asking “so because you did not convert, they troubled you?” To this she responds, “could be”.

 

Citing the video , the BJP has launched State-wide protests alleging that the school attempted to “forcibly convert” the girl and is “seeking justice” for a “Tamil Nadu Hindu girl”. BJP State president K. Annamalai has rejected Thanjavur Superintendent of Police Ravali Priya’s statement that there is no religious angle to the girl’s death. Party leaders want the school, where many Hindu students study, shut down. The issue is sub judice with the girl’s parents moving the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking a CB-CID probe. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, acting on a BJP member’s complaint, has sought a report from the Director General of Police.

Incidentally, three days before the girl died, BJP leaders were outraging over a satirical show on a Tamil television channel in which two children, donning the roles of a king and minister, mocked demonetisation and disinvestment. Mr. Annamalai said L. Murugan, his predecessor and now Minister for Information and Broadcasting (I&B), had assured him of action as the show “demeaned” the Prime Minister . The I&B Ministry issued notice to the TV channel citing a complaint from a BJP functionary.

The credit for giving a renewed push to the Hindutva agenda goes to Mr. Murugan. Shortly after being appointed BJP State president during the COVID-19 pandemic, he had raked up the issue of a little-known Tamil YouTube channel insulting the Kanda Sashti Kavasam, a holy hymn sung in praise of Lord Muruga, regarded as a “Tamil Hindu God”. He launched a ‘Vetri Vel Yatra’ , going from one abode of Lord Muruga to another, hoping to consolidate “Hindu votes”. Many BJP leaders shared photos and videos of them performing ‘pooja’ for their newly purchased ‘Vel’ (Lord Muruga’s spear) in their households. Essentially, Lord Muruga replaced Lord Ram in Tamil Nadu for a limited purpose in the BJP’s scheme of things. Its ally, the AIADMK, in power then, declared a holiday for Thai Poosam (a festival when Lord Muruga is propitiated). Incidentally, the DMK has not tinkered with this religious holiday, perhaps not wanting to give the BJP another opportunity to accuse it of bias against Hindus.

Given that the electorate had rejected attempts by Jayalalithaa to polarise Hindu votes and forced her to repeal an anti-conversion law and a ban on animal sacrifice in temples , it remains to be seen if the BJP’s efforts would pay political dividends now.

(Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050.)

sureshkumar.d@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Feb 21, 2022 8:25:18 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/in-tamil-nadu-a-renewed-push-for-hindutva/article38325154.ece