The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court heard arguments in connection to director Pa Ranjith's anticipatory bail plea over his speech on emperor Raja Raja Chozhan. Justice Rajamanickam adjourned the case to June 19 but directed that Ranjith cannot be arrested till the next court date.
The director found himself in the midst of a controversy after a speech on June 5 at an event organised by the Blue Panthers Party (Neela Puligal Iyakkam) to commemorate the death anniversary of Umar Farooq, its founder. At the event in Kumbakonam, Ranjith spoke about Tamil pride and how people kept claiming that all Tamil people were one while failing to address caste divisions and discrimination. In this context, he elaborated on how there was a battle in Tamil Nadu to claim Raja Raja Chozhan as their own by different caste groups, include the Paraiyars (a Dalit caste). However, Ranjith said that he had no interest in claiming ownership over Raja Raja Chozhan because his rule was a dark period for his people (the Dalits), contrary to popular belief. Following this, based on a complaint by Ka Bala, former Thanjavur district secretary of the Hindu Makkal Katchi, an FIR was registered against Ranjith under IPC 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 153 (A) (1) (a) (promoting enmity between different groups) on the Kaala director.
The director's counsel argued that the speech was based on research from published books and that it was not aimed at creating enmity between communities. During the course of the hearing, the judge observed, "Why did you have to talk about this after 1000 years? The petitioner has spoken about the Devadasi culture. The Devadasi culture has been abolished by the efforts of great leaders." The judge also asked Pa Ranjith why speak about a ruler that people celebrate when there are so many things to discuss.
The next hearing for the case was then scheduled for June 19.
In his bail plea, Ranjith wrote that his speech was not intended to divide people. “As chief guest at the event, I only spoke some of the truths about King Raja Raja Chozhan. How to remove casteism? How to create a casteless society? I spoke about all these, including the plight of landless people especially those from the delta regions mentioned in Umar Farooq’s Sentamizh Naatu Cherigal,” read his plea.
Noting that his speech was being condemned on social media, Ranjith pointed out that several social reformers too made similar observations.
“Our history calls Raja Raja Chozhan’s rule as a golden period. Yet several social reformers have pointed out that Raja Raja Chozhan’s reign was a dark time for the oppressed. The Devadasi practice was widespread in his rule. I’ve only spoken about the information mentioned in history books. Several others too have spoken about this. Yet my speech alone is being misconstrued on social media. I did not make such comments with an ulterior motive,” he said.