'Independent India’s first extremist was a Hindu': Kamal stirs controversy

Actor turned politician and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan has stirred controversy again, this time by saying that independent India’s first 'theeviravadhi' - extremist - was a Hindu. He made the remark while campaigning in the Aravakurichi Assembly constituency.

Bye-polls to the constituency was announced in April this year. The constituency has not had an MLA after the man who was elected, Senthil Balaji, was disqualified in September 2017. The bye-poll to Aravakuruchi will be held in May 19.

Kamal, campaigning for candidate S Mohanraj, said independent India’s first extremist was a Hindu, and his name was Nathuram Godse — the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.

“I'm not saying this because this is a Muslim dominated area. I'm saying this in front of the Gandhi statue. Independent India's first extremist was a Hindu. His name was Nathuram Godse. It starts from there. I'm Gandhi's ideological great-grandson. I'm here to seek answers for that murder. Any good Indian will want the country to be peaceful and equal to all. He will always want the tricolours of the national flag to remain the same always. I will thump my heart and say that I'm a good Indian,” Kamal said. 

The Tamil word 'theeviravaadhi', meaning 'extremist', is commonly interchanged for 'terrorist'. In an earlier instance in 2017, Kamal in a column had used the term 'theeviravaadhi' and later clarified that he meant extremist/extremism and not terrorist/terrorism. 

The BJP has slammed Kamal Haasan for his comment. BJP Tamil Nadu state president Tamilisai Soundararajan condemned Kamal’s remarks, and said that he was “lighting a dangerous fire” to earn votes.

"Actor Kamal Haasan recalling Gandhi’s assassination now and calling it Hindu terrorism is condemnable. Standing amidst minorities in TN bye-election campaign he is lighting a dangerous fire to gain votes by minority appeasement,” she tweeted.

She further questioned why Kamal had not condemned the groups that carried out the terror attacks in Sri Lanka. "Kamal didn’t opine on recent Srilanka bomb blast, why? But dares to take up decades old event which was well enquired and guilty punished? He threatened to leave India when his film screening was prevented by religious groups! But now he calls himself true Indian. True political acting started now having lost the chances in screenplay,” she added.

BJP National Secretary H Raja also reacted to Kamal's statement, and referred to Kamal as Pakistan's first governor-general Muhammed Ali Jinnah's grandson.

"Let us identify who Kamal Haasan is. Jinha had beheaded 1000s of Hindus and sent their bodies on a train in August 15, 1947 itself. How will Jinha's grandson (Kamal) remember incidents like these and the Noakhali riots ? He's going to such lengths for Muslim votes. Shame," he said. 

H Raja also said that MNM was a poisonous plant that has to be uprooted. "MNM is a poisonous plant that has to be uprooted in its early stages. Look how he's insulting Hindus for the sake of muslim vote. He's a coward who did not condemn Thirubuvanam Ramalingam's murder". This was in reference to the murder of PMK functionary Ramalingam.

This is not the first time that Kamal is embroiled in controversy for making remarks about Hindus. In 2017, in a column in Ananda Vikatan, the actor wrote that the Hindu right has started using violence.

"Earlier, the Hindu right would not personally indulge in violence, but instead through their debates they would incite their opponents to violence. But once this tactic failed, they started using muscle power instead of dialogue. They too have started using violence. They can no longer challenge saying 'Can you show me a Hindu extremist?” he then wrote.

“Extremism has spread to that extent in their camp. This extremism is neither a win nor progress for those who call themselves Hindus,” he added.