Does Vaiko’s pro-Hindu speech signal shift in Dravidian strategy?

MDMK general secretary Vaiko.

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MDMK general secretary Vaiko.

Leaders of the Movement have had to counter the claim that they are anti-Hindu

MDMK general secretary Vaiko’s speech on the occasion of former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai’s birth anniversary, advocating a change in the strategy of Dravidian parties and stressing the need to respect the sentiments of those who go to temples to worship, has raised many an eyebrow.

“If you do not believe [in God], you need not go to temple. Do not ridicule people of faith who visit temples,” Mr. Vaiko had said at the meeting, recalling his efforts to renovate the Sundaraperumal temple in his village, which was constructed by his family.

Mr. Vaiko’s argument was that the Dravidian strategy should be revised since crores of devotees were visiting the Madurai Meenakshi temple, Tirupati, Chidambaram and Kancheepuram (to worship Athi Varadar). “But Mr. Veeramani (president of Dravidar Kazhagam) may not agree with me,” he said.

To buttress his argument, he said the DMK founder too had changed his strategy in accordance with the times, adding that it was necessary to prevent power from reaching the hands of proponents of Sanatana dharma.

Though leaders like Mr. Vaiko have never openly criticised or ridiculed believers, what took everyone by surprise was that he was willing to go the extra mile to keep the Hindus comfortable.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin has, in the past, taken pains to clarify that he and his party were not against Hindus, and that even his party cadre and family members had visited temples. He had even alleged that there was an attempt to portray the DMK as an anti-Hindu party.

‘Under pressure’

This reversal of position, which stands in stark contrast to the times when leaders of the rationalist movement used to break idols of Lord Vinayaka on the streets, has raised the question whether the Dravidian parties are under pressure to change their stand to counter the allegation of the Hindutva forces that they are ‘anti-Hindu’ and to prevent the alienation of Hindu voters. Does this signal a departure by the Dravidian parties from their core ideology?

Denying this, K. Thirunavukkarasu, a historian of the Dravidian Movement, said, “Mr. Vaiko should have discussed the issue in the party forum and not in an open meeting since the situation does not warrant such a speech.”

“The DMK and its allies swept the recent Lok Sabha polls and won many seats in the Assembly by-elections. The ruling AIADMK government’s pro-BJP stand and the BJP government’s anti-Tamil policy have created a favourable climate for the anti-BJP forces. So, one cannot agree with the argument that the Dravidian parties are under pressure to change their strategy,” he contended.

However, Viduthalai Rajendran, general secretary of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, agreed that the Dravidian leaders were under political compulsion to express such views since the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Sangh Parivar were seeking to put them in a tight spot. He contended that the Dravidian Movement had never been against the Hindus or ridiculed temple-goers, but was against the “Vedic religion that deprived a majority of the Hindus of their self-respect, rights and honour”.

“But you must keep in mind that those who seek to portray the Dravidian Movement and its leaders as anti-Hindu have opposed our efforts to give the majority of Hindus their rights. They opposed their entry into temples. They are still against non-Brahmins becoming priests,” he alleged.

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