Nation Current Affairs 05 Nov 2019 Venerated Tamil poet ...

Venerated Tamil poet dragged into ugly political row in Tamil Nadu

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | MR VENKATESH AND D SEKAR
Published Nov 5, 2019, 1:46 am IST
Updated Nov 5, 2019, 2:06 am IST
“Insulting him is insulting ourselves and those who did this shameful act should be punished,” Mariarasan said.
The passerby noticed the desecrated statue and informed the Tamil University police. (Photo: ANI)
 The passerby noticed the desecrated statue and informed the Tamil University police. (Photo: ANI)

CHENNAI: In fresh round of unseemly political jousting in Tamil Nadu, the classical era Tamil saint-poet Tiruvalluvar, whose 1,330 couplets comprising Tirukkural is considered part of the perennial universal wisdom of mankind, has now become the centre of a controversy in a land that is getting noticed for heightened tensions over issues of saffronisation and Hindi-imposition on Tamils.

The desecration of a statue of Tiruvalluvar near Thanjavur Pillaiyarpatti late on Sunday night and the quick efforts at restoring its dignity may have just opened the lid to a larger controversy seething underneath, coming close on the heels of opposition parties led by DMK and CPI (M) condemning the BJP's alleged bid to “appropriate and saffronise” the secular universalist poet as a Hindutva icon.    

 

In fresh round of unseemly political jousting in Tamil Nadu, the classical era Tamil saint-poet Tiruvalluvar, whose 1,330 couplets comprising Tirukkural is considered part of the perennial universal wisdom of mankind, has now become the centre of a controversy in a land that is getting noticed for heightened tensions over issues of saffronisation and Hindi-imposition on Tamils.

The desecration of a statue of Tiruvalluvar near Thanjavur Pillaiyarpatti late on Sunday night and the quick efforts at restoring its dignity may have just opened the lid to a larger controversy seething underneath, coming close on the heels of opposition parties led by DMK and CPI (M) condemning the BJP’s alleged bid to “appropriate and saffronise” the secular universalist poet as a Hindutva icon.

A jerky debate was triggered on Sunday after the BJP’s Tamil Nadu twitter handle had tweeted a photo of Tiruvalluvar, attired in saffron robes and his forehead smeared with ashes (vibhoothi), to drive home that the global Tamil icon was basically a Hindu Saivite saint. This had triggered widespread condemnation by the opposition and barely few hours later the desecration of Tiruvalluvar’s statue has happened.

The issue is a political hot potato as observers recall how the late DMK leader M. Karunanidhi had taken the glory of saint-poet Tiruvalluvar to greater heights as concretely symbolizing the Tamils’ universal, secular approach as expressed in the ‘Yaadhum Oore, Yaavarum Kelir’ Sangam period idea by various means.

The DMK under Karunanidhi’s leadership had widely popularized a pictorial representation of Tiruvalluvar in the 1970s, based on modifications to an initial sketch done by a Mylapore artiste Venugopal Sarma in 1954, which was then accepted as the ‘official portrait’ by the state government and the Centre issued a postal stamp, which portrayed the Tamil poet without any religious connotation.

Karunanidhi had also built an impressive secular monument, Valluvar Kottam in Chennai, dedicated to Tiruvalluvar and then at the dawn of the new millennium the DMK patriarch had unveiled a massive 133-feet tall statue of Tiruvalluvar at the land’s end in Kanyakumari on a rock near Vivekananda rock.

But all this secular, cosmopolitan legacy of Tiruvalluvar is now sought to be questioned by the BJP and its saffron affiliates and they seek to offer a new discourse on the poet’s history. In response to DMK president M K Stalin’s charge that the BJP was trying to “saffronise” Tiruvalluvar to politically grow in Tamil Nadu-, in the wake of recent pro-Tamil gestures by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was attired in the Tamils traditional dress of ‘dhoti’ with an ‘angavastram’ during the informal summit with Chinese President, Xi Jing Ping at Mamallapuram recently and Modi just on Sunday releasing a Thai translation of ‘Tirukkural’ in Bangkok-, the BJP national secretary, H. Raja claimed: “Original Tiruvalluvar had Vibhuthi smeared on his body and all Hindu symbols. Only the Dravidian parties changed his image conveniently to suit their political goals.”

Another BJP spokesperson S. R. Sekar went to the extent of quoting in a television debate, chapter and verse from ‘Tirukkural’ to drive home the point that various Hindu Gods including ‘Yama’, the God of Death, mentioned by the poet, show that he was a ‘Hindu’. Sekar also accused post-Periyar Dravidian leaders with having de-saffronised Thiruvalluvar, even as Periyar himself had opposed ‘Tirukkural’ alleging it was “preaching Hinduism”. “The BJP is only correcting the distortions that the Dravidian parties have done,” added S. R. Sekar.

This row over Tiruvalluvar’s cultural identity that threatens to snowball into another controversy more than 2,000 years after the humble weaver-poet had existed, is seen as part of a wider opposition to ‘saffronisation’ bid in various spheres by the BJP and the DMK opposing various instances of “imposing” Hindi by the Central government in recent months. They included recruitments to postal department, instructions to linemen in railway department and the latest instance that has enraged Stalin is the issuance of traffic violations challans under the recently amended Motor Vehicles Act in only Hindi and English.

And with the BJP also trying to rake up the issue of alleged encroachment of temple lands, it looks like another round of the political big fight with the Dravidian majors and their allies like Congress and Left parties, notably is around in Tamil Nadu.

...




ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT