Tamil Nadu Police arrested the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Coimbatore district unit president Balaji Uthamaramasamy today for allegedly threatening Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP A Raja for saying that Shudras are children of prostitutes. Last week, during a meeting of the Dravidar Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, A Raja had said, “You are the son of a prostitute till you remain as Shudra,” he said. “You are a Panchaman [Dalit] till you remain a Hindu. You are an untouchable till you remain a Hindu.”
On 18 September, Uthamaramasamy allegedly challenged Raja to enter Coimbatore without police protection. The BJP leader had said that if the former union minister did not stop making derogatory remarks about Hindus, he would not be permitted to set foot at the Coimbatore airport. This led to the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, an ally of the DMK, filing a complaint against the BJP leader, after which the police arrested him. A court in Coimbatore subsequently sent Uthamaramasamy to judicial custody.
Tamil Nadu BJP leaders protested against Balaji’s arrest. Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai tweeted that Uthamaramasamy’s “only mistake was to condemn DMK MP Raja for his remarks on Shudras as sons of prostitutes. The DMK government will face the same end as every authoritarian regime.”
Uthamaramasamy has been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 505(1)(b), which deals with publishing or circulating statements that are likely to cause fear or alarm.
Yesterday, several shops and businesses in the Nilgiris district were closed after the Hindutva group Hindu Munnani called a bandh to protest Raja’s remarks. Raja defended his comments and said that the Hindu caste system deprives backward classes of the same religion of equal rights.
The DMK leader said that in 1951, anti-caste social reformer EV Ramasamy aka Periyar had brought in reservations for backward classes in Tamil Nadu. However, the Supreme Court declared the decision invalid after two Brahmins challenged it in the top court, he said.
Raja said that it was the Dravidian movement led by leaders like CN Annadurai and Periyar that demanded reservation for 60% people in the state who fall into the backward classes and are also Hindus. He said that reservations for backward classes proposed by the Mandal Commission in 1990 faced opposition from upper caste Hindus such as Rajputs and Brahmins.
EV Ramasamy aka Periyar had begun the Dravidian movement provoked by alleged ill-treatment his family had received at a temple. Decades into Dravidian politics, Brahmins are now in a small numerical minority in Tamil Nadu. The state politics is dominated by OBCs and Scheduled Castes.