Marxists and Dravidian ideologists are of course atheists, but not anti-theists. But today’s electoral compulsions, orchestrated by Hindutva elements, have forced them to sport holy ash and kumkum during their campaigns to offset the sinister canards spread on social media that they are anti-Hindus.
When serious attempts are made to divide people on religious lines, many of these ideologists in the fray have been compelled to moderate their affiliations. Many candidates of the DMK-led alliance are trying to shrug off their ideological baggage to counter the narrative propagated by their rivals and convey to the people openly that they are irreligious and secular. Which is why this election, they are visiting temples, accepting honours and wearing religious symbols.
Candidates from the DMK-led alliances such as CPI(M)’s Su. Venkatesan contesting from Madurai Lok Sabha constituency and Dalit leader and VCK Chief Thirumavalavan, who grew up in the Dravidian school of ideology and is contesting from the Chidambaram constituency, are not exceptions.
A campaign unleashed by the majoritarian forces that the DMK-led alliance is anti-Hindu has put them in an embarrassing situation in the electoral arena, forcing its leader and DMK President MK Stalin to declare that they are not against any religion.
Wedded to the Marxist philosophy, Venkatesan has taken to convincing the electorate in Madurai, a temple city and an ancient centre of Tamil language and literature, that his party, CPI(M) has never been against any religion. “It is a party that fights against fascism globally,” he said at a public meeting.
He lodged a complaint against the BJP and got the party’s state secretary R Srinivasan booked under section 171 (G) of Indian Penal Code (false statements in connection with an election). This after Srinivasan allegedly indulged in a slanderous campaign against him by accusing Venkatesan of insulting women going to temples and the Chithirai festival.
Thirumavalavan is straining every sinew to tell the people in Chidambaram, an ancient temple town in the Chozha kingdom, that his Dravidian ideology would never interfere in religion. “I am a Hindu by birth and respect all faiths. We, as a party, fight for social justice and equality,” he said after attending a temple festival in a village near Kattumannarkoil while campaigning.
Realising the dangers of the crafty anti-Hindu campaign against the DMK-led alliance, Stalin had to go an extra mile to convince the people that they are not against any religion, especially Hinduism.
At a public meeting, he quoted from ‘Parasakthi’, a super-hit Tamil film released in 1952, that was scripted by his late father and the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi: “We are not against temples, but we are against temples getting converted into dens for anti-socials.”
In fact, Stalin has to dedicate substantial time and energy to rubbish the allegations that are being spread by Hindutva forces on public platforms and as well as on the social media calling the DMK anti-Hindu. In every campaign meeting he addresses, he emphasises that the DMK is not against Hindus, as claimed by some mischievous elements.
In his Tirunelveli election meeting held recently, Stalin said the majority of the DMK cadres and functionaries are Hindus. “Then how can you call us anti-Hindu?” he asked. Thirumavalavan has also said 90% of VCK cadres are Hindus.
“We are not against any religion. We believe in social harmony, religious tolerance, secularism and equality. It was the DMK government that performed more consecrations for temples,” Stalin said and even chanted the names of Hindu gods by saying Karunanidhi released the books such as 'Vinayagar pottri, Murugan pottri, Sivan pottri and Thirumaal pottri pottri' and ensured that archanai (chanting of mantras) was done in Tamil in the temples.
He accused the BJP of trying to project the DMK as anti-Hindu for cheap political gains. “BJP alone is not the sole custodian of Hinduism,” he claimed and said the DMK did not denounce temples and worship. “The DMK in principle never interferes in any religious practices of anyone. We live in a pluralistic society of a secular country. The DMK, when it came to power, introduced the reservation policy that largely benefitted Hindus belonging to BC, MBC and SC communities. It also fought for the appointment of non-Brahmin priests in temples. We are for reforms only,” he said.
The leaders of various parties in the alliance have instructed the rank and file to not fall prey to such ‘instigations’ at election time. Even the damage to the statue of social reformer Periyar, founder of Dravidar Kazhagam, an apolitical movement that stood for self- respect and progressive ideals, at Aranthangi town recently evoked restrained reaction.
In fact, the DMK, a party born out of the Dravida Kazhagam, however, does not follow the stringent atheist principles Periyar preached. The DMK, when formed, carried the slogan of 'Ondrae kulam, Oruvanae thevan' (Mankind is one, and God is one). The propaganda against the DMK as anti-Hindu party got triggered off after K Veeramani, the president of DK, made a reference to Hindu god Lord Krishna in connection with the Pollachi sex scandal.
The opinions are the author's own.
AR Meyyammai, a journalist with two decades of experience, has worked for The Hindu, The New Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle.