Hindu Munnani hartal in Nilgiris over A Raja's speech, 40 detained

According to local sources, a majority of shops in the Coonoor and Kotagiri taluks of the Nilgiris, the home constituency of DMK MP A Raja, remained closed on the day.
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Condemning Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP A Raja for his speech on Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism, rightwing outfit Hindu Munnani called for a hartal in the MP’s home constituency of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. According to local sources, a majority of shops in the Coonoor and Kotagiri taluks remained closed on the day. Besides the Hindu Munnani, other rightwing organisations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged protests against Raja in many parts of the state, including the Nilgiris, Mettupalayam, and Sathyamangalam areas. They had also held a protest in Coimbatore on Sunday. 

Clashes were reported in a number of regions on Tuesday, with several Hindu Munnani workers forcing shopkeepers to shut down their shops to support the hartal. According to India Today, as many as 18 Hindu Munnani workers were arrested for vandalising a bakery after the owner opposed the demand to close his shop in Sathyamangalam early Tuesday morning. The rightwing activists also reportedly used abusive language against DMK Municipality Chairman Janaki Ramasamy, who had attempted to stop them from damaging the bakery. Up to 22 Hindu Munnani members were detained in the Nilgiris as well, in connection with the protests. Meanwhile, DMK party members had reportedly distributed pamphlets among the shops in Sathyamangalam on Monday evening, asking them to keep their shops open during the hartal. 

Raja had sparked the controversy at a public meeting on September 6, when he said that these were difficult times and one should not hesitate to question the identity of a Hindu. He had also said that a person would remain a Shudra and an untouchable as long as they were Hindu, and a person was a ‘son of a prostitute’ as long as they were a Shudra. He had further stated that the roots of sanatana dharma could be cut, only if people questioned if they wanted to be the son of a prostitute and if they wanted to be an untouchable. 

Raja’s speech did not sit well with many BJP leaders and other Hindutva organisations, who accused him of spewing hatred against Hindus and demanded a public apology from him, besides filing multiple complaints seeking action against him. A complaint was filed by BJP state vice-president Karu Nagarajan against him last week, stating that the speech intended to, “destroy Hindu religious beliefs and to spread rumours, and to incite religious violence in Tamil Nadu.” BJP state president of IT and Social Media CTR Nirmal Kumar also filed a complaint against Raja with Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla on Tuesday, seeking action against the DMK MP for his “unethical and impropriety act of publishing hate speech for political gains,” and sought to bar him from contesting elections. 

Meanwhile, speaking at the Sir Pitty Thyagaraya Hall on Monday, Raja dismissed the demands of the rightwing groups saying he had no reason to apologise. “They are saying I should apologise because I hurt Hindu sentiments. I accept that anyone who has made a mistake should ask for an apology. But the issue here is whether I have made a mistake or not,” he said, adding that neither he nor the DMK was anti-Hindu.

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