Two hours into his first day as politician, Kamal Haasan was the subject of censure among fisher folk in Rameswaram. What was supposed to be a one hour and twenty-minute interaction with the leaders of the local fishing community was cut down to ten minutes. However, getting wind of the situation, organisers invited the fishermen for a second, longer meeting with the actor at his hotel.
According to organisers of the ‘Nammavar tour’, the initial session with the fisher folk was cut down as the actor, who was supposed to arrive at Ganesh Mahal at 8:50 am, turned up over half an hour late. He was expected to meet the fishermen as soon as he left the residence of former President APJ Abdul Kalam. However, according to the organisers, the delay was because Kamal had to go back to the hotel.
"If he had not come back to the hotel, he would have arrived to meet the fishermen sooner," said one of the organisers of the 'Nammavar tour'.
After arriving at the venue, the actor-turned-politician gave a five-minute speech, expressing his concern for the plight of the fishermen given that they 'do the most important job in the state.' On the Sri Lankan navy’s arrest of fishermen who ventured into the open waters, Kamal said that there was a need to review treaties and that the issue could not be addressed with violence.
Post the quick speech, Kamal promised to meet them again at a time convenient for both parties. He then rushed out through the backdoor.
Reacting to this, angry fisher folk told TNM that they felt cheated by Kamal as they had hoped that he would at least explain how he planned to help them out.
"We thought it would be good if we could air our grievances to him (Kamal) today in the presence of the media. But the press thronged the venue and covered him entirely. We didn’t even get to see Kamal’s face. As for Kamal, he spoke about our demands and then abruptly exited the venue, promising to come back and talk to us. We feel betrayed that we couldn't meet and talk to him. The arrangements were not good,” said Bose of the South Indian Fishermen Association.
However, soon after this, the actor along with the tour organisers salvaged the situation and held an interaction at the hotel where Kamal was staying. Following this, the fishing community leaders went on stage for a press conference along with the actor.
At the press meet, Bose, who took the mic from Kamal announced that the Centre wasn’t paying heed to their requests.
“Our fishermen are languishing in jails in Sri Lanka with in the most horrible conditions. When the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj came here before the elections, she promised to protect our fishing rights. But when we met her recently she told us not to go fishing in places we used to visit regularly, " he said.
When asked why the initial interaction with the fisher folk failed, Kamal said,"It was difficult to interact with them there. So I have brought them here to share their demands.” He then bid goodbye to the fishermen with hugs.
Following the second interaction, Bose told TNM that they were glad that they could at least express their views on the issue. Kamal has promised to meet them in Chennai at a later date.
"We are happy for now. But are hoping to meet him for a more detailed session soon," he said.