"I will not apologise," says Rajinikanth on controversial statement against Periyar's rally

Published : January 21, 2020 18:39 IST

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Rajinikanth release the 50th anniversary souvenir of Thuglak magazine in Chennai on January 14. Photo: PTI

Actor and political aspirant Rajinikanth, who created a controversy by saying that Hindu gods were dishonoured at E.V. Ramasamy Periyar’s anti-superstition rally held at Salem way back in 1971, has refused to accept the demand from various leaders and political parties in Tamil Nadu to either tender an apology or express regret for making the statement.

The 70-year-old actor told the media on January 21 that he did not say anything that was unknown or unreported. Showing the printout of a 2017 report that appeared in Outlook magazine on the arrest of a cartoonist in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth claimed that his statement about the Salem rally, made at the 50th anniversary function of the Thuglak magazine on January 14, was based not only on hearsay but also on news reports.

He said that he would never apologise or express regret for his observations on the rally. He said such acts of sacrilege [against Hindu gods] should be forgotten. “What I spoke became a controversy. But I didn’t say [about] this rally on my own volition. What I said was what I heard. They were talking about what they saw. So, I’ll not apologise for what I said,” he told the media outside his Poes Garden residence in Chennai.

He kicked up yet another controversy at the same function by saying that those who had a copy of Murasoli, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) mouthpiece were “DMK members” while those who had Thuglak were [considered to be] intelligent.

The 1971 Salem rally was organised by the Dravidar Kazhagam (D.K.). It was alleged that portraits of the Hindu gods Ram and Sita were desecrated at that rally. Though the then Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, denied that any such incident took place, magazines like Thuglak carried reports to that effect. Various political leaders and historians too claimed that such an incident did not take place as claimed by Rajinikanth.

Reacting to his observation, the D.K. called the actor a liar and claimed that no such incident had taken place at the Salem rally. “How could he, who aspires to become a political leader in Tamil Nadu, mischievously attribute motives to a rally on the basis of a few obscure news reports? An item of footwear was hurled by some miscreants at Periyar, who led the rally. It fell on the vehicle that carried the pictures of the gods. The incident was twisted and misrepresented by vested interests today to suit their agenda,” said a senior DK functionary.

Meanwhile, leaders from various political parties and social movements condemned the actor’s statement on the issue and his refusal to express regret. Complaints have been registered against him at some police stations across the State. Members of various outfits also burnt his effigies.

For quite some time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is struggling to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu politics, has been attempting to malign the image of Periyar and to discredit the main opposition party, the DMK, as anti-Hindu. The Tamil Nadu BJP IT wing’s official twitter handle tweeted derogatory remarks against Periyar on his 47th death anniversary last year which was condemned by everyone including its allies, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The tweet was later withdrawn.