Yet another instance of a statue of a Dravidian leader – this time of DMK founder and former Chief Minister CN Annadurai - being draped in saffron colours has invited the wrath of the state’s political leaders.
A saffron cloth was found tied to the railing around the statue at Kultiharai town in Kanyakumari district on Thursday morning. Old serial lights and dried flowers were also tied on the railing in an apparent show of protest. The police later arrested a 60-year-old man based on eyewitness accounts. He was found to be mentally deranged and a case has been registered under section 24 of the Mental Health Act.
The desecration was condemned by political leaders across party lines from Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerseelvam to DMK leader M.K. Stalin. “Since these people do not have their own political identity, they are trying to demean the memory of the great leaders of the past,” observed Stalin. PMK leader Dr. S. Ramadoss, condemning the incident, said that such acts would not change the ideology or memory of Anna.
The saffron treatment is part of a series of such attempts across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. In recent weeks, statues of Dravidian leaders like Periyar, MGR and Anna have been either draped with saffron cloth or dabbed with saffron coloured paint. It is seen as retaliation by pro-Hindu outfits over silence of the DMK and AIADMK to the attack on “Kanda Sashti Kavasam” by a rationalist group.
The state police arrested two persons of the rationalist group and also slapped the Goondas Act on them after taking down the offensive videos from their Youtube channel after a complaint by the state BJP unit. They have also arrested a person belonging to the Bharat Sena under the NSA for pouring saffron paint on a Periyar statue at Coimbatore.
The incidents have also brought into the open the growing divide between the ruling AIADMK and the BJP, who were allies for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, as both Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam had used very strong words while condemning the incidents and also termed them the handiwork of certain anti-social elements.
“Their condemnation has also been published on the state government’s website as a press release. It is clear that the AIADMK does not want to continue its political ties with the BJP for the Assembly elections. They may even use these incidents as one of the reasons for snapping the ties since neither the state BJP nor any of its affiliates have condemned the incidents,” observed political commentator Raveentharan Thuraisamy. The AIADMK feels that ending its alliance with the BJP may actually help it win back some of the minority votes, he added.