We are not anti-Hindu, says DMK
Ushering in the election season true BJP-style, a serendipitous video and a twitter war has brought Hindus to the centre of the debate in Tamil Nadu.
In Tamil Nadu, the BJP’s ideology stands clear. And, for now, alone. It might not have yet successfully replicated here the messaging that has served it so well across the country but that doesn’t stop it from trying. In a state where rationalism and Dravidianism have reigned supreme since independence, the saffron party has been trying to introduce Hindutva and nationalism. And it might have won the first salvo, with the foremost Dravidian party coming forward to clarify that it isn’t anti-Hindu. This defensiveness is already a sort of victory for the BJP.
Last week a popular rationalist channel on YouTube came under fire for a video where it mocked a Tamil god. There was outcry across the state with many people including celebrities coming forward to speak up against the video and the group behind it. Actor and politician-in-waiting Rajinikanth also condemned the channel for its views and demanded that this constant attack on Hindu gods must stop. Four people from the group were swiftly arrested and over 500 videos on the channel were removed from YouTube.
But for BJP and the state’s nascent but growing right-wing ideologists, this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. And with elections around the corner, it was the perfect time to slip on the campaign gloves. After all, ‘defending Hinduism’ in order to score political points is BJP’s big trump card. It immediately started making claims that the creators of the channel were associated with the opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and have been campaigning for them. In one instance, saffron paint was dumped on a statue of rationalist and father of Dravidianism Periyar.
The outrage against the video was such that DMK was immediately put in a defensive position. It had to come out multiple times to distance itself from the creators of the YouTube channel. A war of words raged on Twitter and in the media. DMK party leaders said that saffron interests had created a fake Twitter handle that said DMK would support the YouTube creators in their legal battle. A petition would be filed with Chennai police to take action against the handle, they said. Meanwhile, DMK president MK Stalin said this effort to paint the party as an anti-Hindu one will not work. He has urged party workers to stay above the issue. But he himself couldn’t help but get drawn into the debate when he listed out all the social initiatives of the party that have benefitted the Hindus. Unwittingly, he has fallen into the trap the BJP has set for him. Because once the issue has been reduced to who is for and against the Hindus, it is BJP ‘s home turf, a game that it is all too familiar with and knows to play very well. This won’t end well for its opponents.