Chennai: When actor Rajinikanth paved way for intense debate across the country over the controversial 1971 rally by social reformer Periyar EV Ramasamy in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district, many accounts of the incident began to surface.
During the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Thuglak magazine held on January 14, Rajini mentioned that the Hindu deities, Ram and Sita, were insulted at the 1971 rally with a ‘naked’ image of them and a garland of slippers. After facing backlash from Dravidian outfits, Rajinikanth held news articles to substantiate his statement.
The Outlook article he showed the media on Tuesday had the text stating that ‘photographs of a Dravidar Kazhagam’s procession in Salem depicted Hindu gods Rama and Sita in the nude with a garland of slippers around their necks’. It was this article quoted by Rajini, who added that he stands by his statement and that he didn’t say anything out of imagination.
An audio of Periyar narrating his side of the ‘anti-superstition’ rally went viral. In the audio, Periyar has given his account of the incident where he admits that he exposed the ‘obscenity of the Gods’.
In the audio recording, Periyar said: “One rogue from the other group (right-wing group) threw one of the chappals at our group during our rally, following which one of the men from my group used the same chappal and beat Rama’s pictures.” He added that his people burnt the effigy of Rama.
Periyar in the audio conversation said there were many posters across the state of Periyar holding a slipper and a picture of Rama referring to Cho Ramaswamy’s magazine content.
The Hindu quoted the article it had published when its then reporter had filed. The correspondent present then said that the tableaux contained obscene pictures of the deities and ‘dozens of people kept beating it with chappals’. He added that Periyar was present at the rear end of the procession and the deities were in front of him. The article also mentioned that the chief minister M Karunanidhi apologised for the events that unfolded at the Dravidar Kazhagam procession.
Interestingly, a copy of the Thuglak magazine from 1971 carrying the article has been doing the rounds. The article containing pictures of the deities from the day of the incident which are not clear to establish if Rama’s picture was garlanded with slippers.
The article traces an account of the events that unfolded following the rally. Following the violent acts, CM Karunanidhi faced harsh criticism for not voicing out his views and for not taking any action. Students in Madurai erupted in protests on these grounds. Action was eventually taken under Section 292A. The article ended on a note stating that ‘Anyone can think anything. You need to read this again and again. You yourself will know what happened.’
S Gurumurthy, Editor of Thuglak, said the ‘relevant parts of the 1971 incident will be reprinted’.
Despite the fervent circulation of numerous versions, the issue will stay alive for a few more days as Dravidian outfits have intensified protests against the actor for demeaning the image of Periyar.
(With inputs from S Annette Beryl Elizabeth)
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