What happens when the founder of a party whose members have been accused of political and caste based violence, gives a speech on ‘Growing Hate Politics’? On Saturday, PMK founder Ramadoss decided to use the stage to threaten journalists for asking him questions, quite proudly and loudly. In a video that is being widely shared, Ramadoss can be heard proclaiming that several years ago he had threatened to ‘cut down’ those who ask him questions about cutting trees for a protest.
The event on ‘Hate politics’, which took place in Chennai on Saturday, was organised by Tamil Padaippaligal Periyakkam. Ramadoss was a special invitee to the event, and spoke about his efforts to plant trees. During his speech, he narrated an incident about how a journalist from the Kolkata-based newspaper Telegraph questioned him about PMK’s protests by felling trees.
“I told him that I have answered this question a hundred times. You are asking about it repeatedly with a motive, which is to establish that Ramadoss is a tree-cutter. You want to ensure that even people who don’t know about this, get to know it now. So I told him – in future if there is any such protest, we will not cut trees. Instead, we will cut people like you who ask questions,” he said, to cheers from his audience.
Continuing his rant while being seated on the dais, Ramadoss called journalists dogs and kammanati pasanga (a pejorative used for the son of a widowed woman), and indulged in some classic whataboutery about how no journalist has checked out the trees he has planted. “I have grown a small forest in the Foundation, you Chandalaas, Sagunis…,” he added, using casteist pejoratives.
Ramadoss’s speech has invited sharp criticism from various forums of journalists. Bharathi Tamil, Joint Secretary of Chennai Press Club, issued a statement on behalf of media persons which stated that while there is no second opinion on media and journalists being subject to criticism, it is not right for a senior political leader to use vulgar words to insult journalists. Seeking Ramadoss’s apology for his words, Chennai Press Club stated that it was condemnable that he spewed hatred in an event which was organised against hate politics.
“The rightful owners of democracy, the people, are watching such speeches,” the statement said.
The Centre of Media Persons for Change also expressed their strong opposition to Ramadoss’s comments and called for his immediate arrest.