Neelam Cultural Centre, one of the anti-caste ventures of director Pa Ranjith, found itself the target of social media harassment after the clip of a song went viral and right wing groups wrongly claimed that it had been sung at the ongoing Margazhiyil Makkalisai (a folk music event) organised by Neelam Cultural.
In response to the online harassment, Neelam Cultural Centre put out a short statement on their social media platforms saying that the aim of Margazhyil Makkalisai was to “take the people’s art to the masses” and that yet, “many are spreading defamatory information and fake news about our festival”. The statement also says that the organisation intends to take legal action against those spreading such information.
Many including Tamil Nadu BJP spokesperson SG Suryah tweeted the clip of the song performance and used pejorative terms to describe women supporters of Pa Ranjith and the director himself. The clip features two singers- and one of them sings inappropriate lyrics that seem to encourage the sexual predation of a minor.
Fact Check: The now deleted tweet by #BJP Spokesperson SG Suryah has a clip from an entirely different event, *not* Marghazhiyil Makkalisai organised by Neelam Cultural Centre. Here’s the link to the actual event: https://t.co/wL4LEFucpH pic.twitter.com/dqOahnXCOi— Bharathy Singaravel|பாரதி| بارتي (@KuthaliPu) December 22, 2021
SG Suryah, later took down his first Tweet and clarified that the clip was not from any performance at Margazhiyil Makkalisai as he had earlier claimed. This did not help to contain the storm of tweets put out by many users of the social media platform who also appear to be opposed to Neelam’s politics. The hashtag #NeelamVibachaaraMaiam (“Neelam Prostitution Maiam”) began trending in Tamil alongside abusive insinuations against Neelam and director Ranjith.
Some Twitter users also used this controversy to evoke Pattali Makkal Katchi’s politics against inter-caste marriages about “naadaga kathal”—false romances. Many PMK leaders have claimed in the past years that Dalit youth “lure” non-Dalit women under “false” pretext of romance, and this bogey has made its way into several Tamil films too. The rhetoric had then been widely criticised by various other political parties in Tamil Nadu. The PMK is an ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu along with the AIADMK.
The YouTube video that was misattributed to Neelam has now been made private by the channel host. TNM has not been able to verify the context, if any, of the video as it is no longer accessible.