Actor Suriya has spoken up against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), following the student suicides in Tamil Nadu. Calling it a 'manuneethi' exam, Suriya has said that the NEET, a highly contentious issue in the state, is unjust and deprives underprivileged children of an opportunity to become doctors.
The actor has won wide praise and criticism too for speaking about the issue. However, this is not for the first time that Suriya has voiced his thoughts on social and political issues. Although Suriya has not expressed a desire to join politics, he is among the more vocal stars in the Tamil film industry and is also known for his social work, especially in the field of education.
Here are a few other instances when Suriya voiced his opinions.
National Education Policy: In a press meet organised by Suriya's Agaram Foundation in July 2019, the actor took on the draft NEP framed by the Kasturi Rangan Committee, claiming that it was anti-poor and did not take into consideration the interests of margninalised groups. In this speech too, he had lashed out against the NEET. Superstars Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, who have both expressed their political aspirations, backed Suriya for his speech.
Suriya also faced backlash from the AIADMK and BJP at the time for his views. The BJP's H Raja had called the actor's speech 'half-baked'.
Watch: Suriya speech on National Education Policy
Pollachi sexual assault and extortion case: Although several celebrities tweeted about the horrific sexual assault case in March last year, triggered by the leaked video of a young girl being violated, Suriya went one step ahead and wrote a powerful letter about sexual violence and societal attitudes for Tamil The Hindu. The article was titled 'Don't we have any role to play in violence against women?'
The actor pointed out that violence against women in our society is normalised, from female feticide to sexual assault, and how society plays a major role in condoning it. He also argued for a shift from a culture of victim blaming to creating support for survivors to speak up.
Communalism in the context of Jyotika's comments: In April this year, actor Jyotika, who is married to Suriya, found herself in the middle of a controversy after an old video of hers went viral. In the video, Jyotika can be seen speaking about the pathetic conditions of a government hospital and comparing it to the well-maintained Thanjavur temple near it. In her speech, Jyotika appealed for people to donate to hospitals just as they donate to temples.
Even as the controversy raged on, with the BJP and its supporters going after the actor, Suriya issued a strong statement, clearly standing by Jyotika and the attempts to propagate a communal narrative. He also said that as parents, they would like to teach their children that humanity is beyond religion.
Jallikattu: In 2017, Suriya was among several prominent faces from Tamil Nadu to oppose the ban on jallikattu. In a statement, the actor had slammed animal rights organisation PETA for saying that the traditional sport promoted animal cruelty. He also appreciated the peaceful protests in the state and said that he shared their spirit.
Following his statement, PETA criticised the actor and alleged that Suriya was supporting jallikattu to promote his then upcoming film Singam 3. However, after Suriya sent them a legal notice, PETA offered a "whole-hearted" apology to the actor.