After Lenin, Periyar statues will be taken down soon: BJP leader H Raja's Facebook post sparks war of words

Dravidar Kazhagam has dared the BJP to try and raze a Periyar statue.

After Lenin, Periyar statues will be taken down soon: BJP leader H Raja's Facebook post sparks war of words
Periyar is an icon in Tamil Nadu's dominant Dravidian politics. BJP hardly has a presence. (Picture: Commons/Chinchu.c)

BJP national secretary H Raja has landed himself in controversy again. He threatened to take down statues of 'Periyar' EV Ramasamy soon, like the Lenin statue that was vandalised and razed in Tripura after the BJP's poll victory in the state. Raja's threat has sparked angry reactions from Tamil Nadu's political class.

Raja's threat came in a post on his verified Facebook page. "Who is Lenin? How is he connected to India? How is communism connected to India? The Lenin statue was razed in Tripura. Today it is a Lenin statue in Tripura. Tomorrow, it will be the statue of caste-crazed EV Ramasamy in Tamil Nadu," read his post, that was deleted after the fiery backlash.

The post attracted immediate reaction. "They are not even fit to touch a statue of Periyar. H Raja is a prominent leader of the BJP, and has often made these sort of statements, which are aimed at inciting violence," said DMK working president MK Stalin. "Going by the law, H Raja should be arrested under the Goondas Act and thrown in jail," he added.

K Veeramani, the president of the Dravidar Kazhagam, the political organisation from which the DMK split off in 1949, dared the BJP to follow up on Raja's threat. "They have unleashed their rowdyism as soon as they came to power in Tripura. They have found the daring to make such threats in Tamil Nadu, even before they have come to power," said Veeramani. "Let them break a Periyar statue soon. They will also have to be prepared to face the consequences of such an action," he added.

EV Ramasamy is a political figure who is usually referred to only as 'Periyar', meaning 'The Elder'. He is an icon for social justice and the political class in Tamil Nadu. He was considered responsible for creating the ideological platform that gave rise to Dravidian politics and later to Dravidian political parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The DMK and AIADMK have ruled the state since 1967.

A key ideology position that Periyar is identified with is virulent opposition to the caste system. The Dravidian ideology also targets brahmins as the propagators of the caste system and is avowedly atheist with the aim of shaking off brahminical control of societal structures. The Dravidian Movement identifies Sanskrit-influenced brahmins as Aryans, and the rest of the Tamil-speaking population as Dravidians, the legatees of the Tamil civilisation, language and culture that's 5000 years old at the very least.

The BJP's political presence on the other hand is barely noticeable in Tamil Nadu.