Chennai: A statue of Tamil Nadu’s celebrated poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar was desecrated on Monday in Thanjavur district, a day after one of his pictures showed him in saffron robes, which led to a political scuffle between the BJP and the DMK.
The incident happened in Pillayarpatti village where miscreants smeared ink and cow dung on the face of the statue of Thiruvalluvar. However, the statue has been cleaned.
An investigation into the incident has been initiated. Meanwhile, over 50 college students from Thanjavur district staged a protest demanding immediate arrest of those responsible for vandalising the revered poet’s statue.
A political slugfest between the BJP and the DMK ensued on Friday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a book on Thirukkural in Thai language in Bangkok, following which the saffron party’s Tamil Nadu unit tweeted a picture of Thiruvalluvar wearing saffron robes with ash smeared on his forehead and a 'rudraksha' around his neck. Tirukkural, a collection of 1330 couplets of worldly wisdom, was written by Thiruvalluvar. Later, it came to be known as the Universal common code, or ‘Ulaga podhu marai’.
The Opposition condemned the tweet calling it saffronising Thiruvalluvar and soon “#BJPinsultsthiruvallur” became the top trends on Sunday.
While the BJP condemned the incident of vandalism, the party maintained that Thiruvalluvar’s era was one where there was no other religion apart from Hinduism.
Narayanan Thirupathy, spokesperson, BJP said: “Thiruvalluvar conveyed to the entire world the Hindu way of life through his Thirukkural. It’s highly condemnable to vandalise Thiruvalluvar’s statue. It is a barbaric act. He doesn’t belong to one but he belongs to so many people throughout the world. Thiruvalluvar is supposed to be a Tamilian and was born here. During his days or even during the Mahabharata and Ramayana era, there was no place for Muslims or Christians because when these people lived, there was no Islam or Christian religion in existence. That way, Thiruvalluvar is a Hindu and he has spoken about so many deities through his Thirukkural -- from Lord Indra, Brahma, Thirumagal, Lakshmi etc.”
Adding that Thirukkural is “nothing, but a way of life”, Thirupathy said accused the DMK of spreading conspiracy theories. “Without knowing all these things, it is a conspiracy by the DMK that Thiruvalluvar doesn’t belong to any religion. The DMK is trying to create communal tension among the people of Tamil Nadu, which is not good. Stalin is trying to say that the BJP should learn lessons from Thirukkural but he and DMK must first grasp the book themselves. If at all Stalin reads Thirukkural, he will live in politics. First, let him learn Thirukkural, understand it, and then let us discuss,” he said.
The AIADMK echoed BJP’s stand on the issue.
“Thiruvalluvar is above all caste, creed and religion. His contributions transcend to all religions and people from all walks of life. You can’t contain his contribution to one particular religion. Everybody takes pride that he is a Tamilian and he is from Tamil Nadu. I’m asking one thing— Does wearing a saffron robe restrict him to one sect of a community? Can you deny that he was not a Hindu? His contributions relate to a period when Christianity didn’t exist. So what is wrong if they want to take credits that he was a Hindu? If you (DMK) are so much affected by it, paint Periyar as Thiruvalluvar or paint Thiruvalluvar as Periyar. Who is stopping you,” asked Kovai Sathyan, an AIADMK Spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the Opposition lashed out at the BJP for communalising the issue in the name of Thiruvalluvar.
TKS Elangovan, a DMK MP, condemned saffronisation of Thiruvalluvar and said, “He is a world-renowned poet and is respected by people around the world, even by those speaking other languages. There were many scholars who have translated Thirukkural to their own languages. This act shows how cheap people have behaved in this matter. Yes, saffron denotes one particular religion. Saffron represents one religion. During Thiruvalluvar’s days, when there was no religion, why should he be covered in saffron? Let them also follow Thiruvalluvar’s doctrines. He preaches equality. Let them also honour that. Thiruvalluvar is an icon in Tamil and when somebody insults him, we will definitely point it out. We will not allow that and we will continue to raise this issue.”
AMMK leader TTV Dinakaran too condemned the issue. In a tweet, he said: “Thiruvalluvar is above and beyond caste, religion and language. He is celebrated by each and every one. The controversy surrounding Thiruvalluvar at his birthplace here in Tamil Nadu is unnecessary and unavoidable.”