Noted director Ameer Sultan is no stranger to controversies. He has been in the centre of storms over his alleged remarks on Modi and Rajinikant. He was also prominent in the protest to shift IPL out of Chennai on the Cauvery issue. He is in the eye of a storm again, this time being booked by the police on the charge of attempting to promote violence on religious grounds.
Ameer was taking part in a ‘Round Table’ debate on the topic — Whether protests in the state were for people’s rights or for political reasons’, organised by a private TV channel. Leaders of various political parties including Tamilisai Soundarrajan, Semmalai, Thaniyarasu also participated.
Things started going out of control when Ameer, while responding to BJP State president Tamilisai, made remarks about the communal tension that had prevailed in Coimbatore following the murder of Hindu Munnani functionary C. Sasikumar in 2016. Supporters of the BJP and its allies, who were present in the audience, objected to this and interrupted the round table. A few from the audience said that Thaniyarasu, yet another participant, came to Ameer’s defence.
When contacted, Ameer claimed that the provocation and the subsequent ruckus was due to a group of people who were among the audience and who were instigated by members of a political party. He also asserts that even before he had uttered a word the group started abusing him with filthy and nasty comments as he belonged to a certain religion.
“The channel called me a few days ago and requested to participate. Initially I was not keen since this is Ramzan month and the programme was scheduled in Kovai. On the channel’s persistence and also since I felt the need to address such a topic in today’s scenario, I agreed to take part in it. The mood of the 1,000-odd people gathered there was also neutral except about 50 of them, perhaps BJP supporters who were making some jubilant noise when Tamilisai madam entered the auditorium,” he elaborated.
“My turn came when others like former minister Semmalai, Communist leader Balakrishnan, and Thaniyarasu had finished their speeches. I was about to begin when these people hurled abuses at me. I said, “One should listen to others’ opinions in a debate, otherwise it will end in chaos only,” he added.
Ms Tamilisai interjected and citing references to the arson during the anti-Sterlite protests said, ‘Violence should never be advocated in protests and setting fire to police vehicles’. I immediately spoke about the communal tension that had prevailed in Coimbatore following the murder of C. Sasikumar in 2016. Despite violence, there was no police firing then. Following this, there were open threats to my life with lewd comments from the same group. Neither the debater tried to control them nor they asked police to take control of them.”
After a pause he added, “Both Semmalai and Tamilisai seemed to enjoy the whole ruckus. However, police brought things under control in 25 minutes and the debate restarted. But, I was not allowed to speak. This didn’t go well with the public and they were shouting that I be allowed. Once again, I started to speak. But, this time also those people were yelling and making noise disrupting me. Within in 30 seconds, I was asked to stop and leave the place. The group was waiting outside to attack me. Thanks to the police force, who escorted me to the car and instead of coming Chennai, I had to change my trip to Madurai due to a personal loss and they gave me protection throughout the road till I reached. Later I came to know, some people were waiting at the airport to attack me.”
He stresses that right from the beginning everything looked very well planned. “Sources close to me say that IB has been waiting for a chance to book me for a long. And now, this is the chance for them. So, it is a planned move. I was very clear from side that nothing should be triggered off from my side. This being an important month for me, Kovai being a sensitive place, and despite being a filmmaker, I have been given a ‘tag’ because of the religion I belong to. I was very careful and didn’t lose my cool and never uttered a word. I had the gut feeling that their plan was to trigger violence and target me in turn, but consciously I did not speak anything.”...