An autorickshaw driver from Chennai was allegedly slapped by BJP cadre for asking the party’s Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundararajan about the rising cost of fuel prices.
In visuals that have emerged from the incident, Tamilisai is seen addressing reporters after an event in New Colony, Saidapet. Even as she is listening to a journalist’s question, a man dressed in khaki appears behind her and asks her about the rising cost of fuel. Tamilisai who appears to hear this is seen smiling to cameras but doesn’t turn to face him. Soon as the man asks his question, a BJP supporter dressed in a white shirt who is standing next to the leader elbows him out of the way. He is then pushed backwards by a few party men.
Speaking to TNM, the man, identified as Kathir, 49, says, “I am an auto driver. The rising fuel costs affect my life. When I heard her talking about the good deeds of the government, I thought I should ask her this, so I did. Because she is a VIP, I was slapped once.”
Kathir admits that his face is swollen after being manhandled by the cadre at the spot.
He, however, is resolute in his stand that his anger is justified. Petrol is at an estimated Rs 85.31 per litre in the city as of Monday and Kathir says that he is unable to make ends meet.
Explaining the struggle against the rising fuel costs, he says, “Fuel costs are rising on a daily basis. If we fill our tanks for Rs 100, then we are paid the same for a ride and we are not able to make it back. We are filling our tank but not making any money with our labour. We are able to put food on the table every day only because I drive an auto. And festival season is coming up so we have to drive extra to be able to afford new clothes.”
Kathir lives with his wife who works as a tailor and his six children who work part time to fund their education.
“I don’t want to make it a big deal. I felt angry in that instance so as an auto-driver part of the working class, I asked the question. Only we know how much it hurts,” he sighs.