Image courtesy: Salvatore Barbera

Following the attack on Brahmin priests in Chennai on April 20, similar incidents in the past have gained attention.

In the DMK regime between 1989 and 1991, several such incidents had been reported. One of them was an attack on a journalist in Thanjavur working for The Hindu. V Ganapathy, who is now a 75 year old veteran working on various policy issues with governments, was a reporter with the newspaper when the incident happened. This is his version of events. Around 1990, three incidents of Dravidar Kazhagam party members attacking Brahmins in Thanjavur came to the fore.

One incident happened in Mannargudi, near Thanjavur, and two other incidents in Thanjavur town. The DMK had come to power after a lengthy sabbatical forced by the might of MGR’s AIADMK. According to Ganapathy, the DK attacked Brahmins only to gain cheap publicity. “When they run out of ideas, they indulge in such activities,” he says. They were active during Margazhi festival and the Iyyappa season. So when he heard about the attacks, he interviewed the victims. He also encouraged them to file police complaints, but the Brahmins were too scared.

The attacks were not considered serious. Attackers had not injured them in anyway, but had snapped their poonals (sacred thread worn by Brahmins). The Hindu was bold enough to publish his reports on the attacks by DK members. Several Dravidian activists were unhappy about media publishing such reports. A few weeks later, when the Chief Minister of the state visited Thanjavur, Ganapathy wanted to interview the CM on various issues. But he was not allowed to as he was thought to have had an agenda against the CM. He protested and left.

Few days later, when Ganapathy was on his way to the District Collector’s regular press conference, he was waylaid by DK members. He was on his Lambretta scooter just 100mts away from his house, when the attackers pushed him to the ground. He fell along with his scooter. Then his attackers tore his shirt and his vest, and snapped out his poonal.  He was not injured. He was shaken, but not stirred. He picked himself up and went to the Collector’s press conference and complained to him.

The police registered a case and four men were arrested. But they were later acquitted in the court of law. He was sure that the men charged were those who attacked him, but he could not recall the exact sequence of events and their actions, so his case was weak. Ganapathy says he refused to lie in the court to get them convicted. Opposition parties raised the issue in the legislative assembly as well, and there was uproar in political circles. But there was no remorse from senior political leaders.

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