File photo of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth | PTI
File photo of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth | PTI
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Superstar Rajinikanth, at an event to celebrate Tamil magazine Thuglak’s 50th-anniversary recently, made a statement about Periyar. It sparked a debate across India, one that has almost set the stage for his political debut – or debacle.

On January 14, actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth told the gathering that Periyar EV Ramaswamy, who is considered as the Father of the Dravidian Movement, had taken out a rally against superstition in Salem, Tamil Nadu, in 1971. At the rally, Rajinikanth said, “undressed images of Lord Sri Ramachandramoorthy and Sita – with a garland of sandal – featured and no news outlet published it”. The veteran actor added that nobody except Cho Ramaswamy, the founder-editor of Thuglak, published the news about Periyar’s rally and criticised the incident.

His statement and what followed struck at the heart of carefully nurtured decades-old Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu.

This is why Rajinikanth is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.


Also read: Is Rajinikanth-Kamal Haasan star combo the new political force Tamil Nadu needs?


A huge risk

Rajinikanth’s remarks go against every political playbook in Tamil Nadu. For an aspiring politician to venture to say anything against Periyar is not just risky but perhaps suicidal too. What’s even more controversial than Rajinikanth’s remark is his refusal to apologise. But how it unfolds will definitely signal if Tamil Nadu’s politics is ready to move to the next phase yet.

For his statement, Rajinikanth has invited sharp criticism across Tamil Nadu, faced protests, been massively trolled online and offline, and had a case filed against him, which the Madras High Court has since dismissed.

Rajinikanth said that the incident involving Periyar was not a “figment of his imagination”, and produced copies of published articles – in Outlook and The Hindu – to substantiate his statement. He also claimed that then-DMK government had issued orders to seize copies of the edition of Thuglak that had mentioned the incident, but a few copies survived and reached the stands.

Some on social media blamed Rajinikanth for the desecration of a statue of Periyar near Chengalpattu in Tamil Nadu Friday.

An audio clip of Periyar has also gone viral since Rajinikanth’s statement, in which it is being alleged that Periyar recounted that day’s events and admitted exposing the ‘obscenity of the Gods’.

Dravidian party leaders have sought a public apology from Rajinikanth for his comments, which they claim is “false propaganda”.

But Rajinikanth has refused to apologise. “There is no question of an apology or regret. There is a debate on an issue I spoke on and which happened in 1971. I didn’t make up what I said. People are saying I made it up but I didn’t. Sorry, I won’t apologise,” he told reporters.


Also read: Rajinikanth says BJP is trying to saffronise him but he won’t ‘fall into their trap’


Not all are critics

But Rajinikanth is also receiving a lot of support. Beyond hashtags like ‘#RajiniNotSorry’ and ‘#SanghiRajini’, Twitter was also abuzz with hashtag in his support, #IStandWithRAJINIKANTH.

Moreoever, Thuglak’s current editor S. Gurumurthy said in a tweet that the publication was considering republishing relevant parts of the 1971 edition, which reported on the Salem rally.

Clearly, Rajinikanth has gone beyond just stirring a hornet’s nest. Considering his political aspirations, his statement on Tamil Nadu’s revered Dravidian icon appears to be a calculated risk that he strategically planned to take. By pitchforking the Periyar issue, he may end up creating a niche for himself between the two Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK. With the support of the BJP, he has cleared the deck for his political launch. But was it worth the risk? Only Rajinikanth can tell.

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8 Comments Share Your Views

8 COMMENTS

  1. Periyar had problem only with Hindu deities and survived on commissions from converted gangs. Pathetics even today defend this maniac. Exceptional psycophancy.

  2. For starters, please be accurate in your reporting and provide the full context for your audience. Rajinikanth did not “made a statement about Periyar.”, rather he was trying to explain who/what helped Cho/Thuglak in the early days of the magazine. So he recounted an incident in Salem involving Periyar.

  3. There is no point in denying the truth but sometimes the truth is irrelevant. What Periyar did some decades ago is no longer relevant to the economic or social progress of our nation and so Rajini can be said to have cunningly brought this up with some ulterior motive. This is exactly the same as the Parivaar bringing up atrocities of the Mughals a ‘thousand years’ slavery” to influence voters thinking today.
    Rajini could well have sung his political requiem for trying to ape those in the Parivar who are egging him on.

    • Although I largely agree that this incident is irrelevant to the economical and social progress of this nation. But I support rajani in exposing bigotary of periyar and co because we are still ruled by so many of his minions who carry forward same kind of thinking even today. If votes are voting for someone, they must be fully aware of whom they are voting for. Access to right information to make your decisions is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy. Moreover he was speaking at thuglak event, so he is all justified in bringing up all incidences where the magazine did an amazing job and this is what we could call one of the bravest display of spirit of journalism despite all political suppression.

  4. He was participating in Tuglakh event, so wanted to say something happened 49 years back to create more publicity for the magazine which has lost its charm when it used to take on government in power unlike Gurmurthy who does less accountancy work and instead work to connect each other.

  5. If the incident was true, what is wrong in the oppressed Hindus (dalits) protesting against caste Hindus.If uppercaste Hindus show some humanity towards fellow Hindus,we won’t have this evil called casteism.Uppercaste take offence to idol insults but have no remorse for casteism

  6. This BIMARU style Mandir politics does not carry any chance for a non DMK in TN politics. Keep flogging and you will be as successful as the congress in 53 years. Rath yatra bombed for BJP and now this 2nd attempt. The illiteracy of the party speaks loud matching DMK literacy..

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