Tiruchirappalli: A statue of Dravidian icon E V Ramasamy "Periyar" was found smeared with saffron dye here on Sunday. The provocation drew strong responses from political leaders in Tamil Nadu.
Police said the vandalism was discovered this morning at Samathuvapuram Colony in Inamkulathur locality. A slipper was strewn near the statue. Police said a case has been registered against unidentified persons.
Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam condemned the vandalism and assured that legal action would be taken.
DMK chief M K Stalin slammed the incident, the second such one in Tamil Nadu in recent months. A statue of the rationalist leader was found daubed in saffron paint in Coimbatore recently.
Locals blocked traffic for some time on the Dindigul highway, protesting against the vandalism and dispersed after police assured them that action would be taken.
Panneerselvam lashed out at the incident, and hailed Periyar's struggle for ensuring social justice. "Stringent legal action will be taken against those anti-social elements involved in the incident," he said in a tweet.
Stalin slammed the defacing of the statue of the Dravidian stalwart and said people will "boycott" such persons.
Periyar was not the leader of just the Dravidar Kazhagam movement but all Tamils, he said. "When are they going to realise that people will further boycott them if they repeatedly do the same mistake," he asked in a Facebook post without naming anyone.
There have been repeated instances of Periyar statues being vandalised or desecrated in the recent past in Tamil Nadu. "Periyar is not the leader of just a movement. He is the leader of the Tamil race. Those who do such things thinking they are insulting him are insulting themselves," he said.
PMK leader S Ramadoss hit out at the defacing of the statue and demanded "strong action" against those involved.
MDMK founder and Rajya Sabha MP Vaiko, AMMK leader and independent MLA T T V Dhinakaran and VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan, MP, also criticised the latest episode of targeting Periyar's statue and demanded that such elements be dealt with strictly.
Meanwhile, DMK MP Kanimozhi used the incident to take a dig at the BJP's state unit, referring to its chief L Murugan's recent statement that the saffron party had no hesitation to extend greetings on Periyar's birth anniversary on September 17.
She asked if this was the "respect they show" to the leader, remarks which drew a strong response from Murugan, who said there were "political intentions" behind her words, saying a police enquiry was on into the incident.
Murugan had earlier hailed the contributions of Periyar to social justice and said he had no hesitation in extending BJP's greetings on the occasion of the late leader's 142nd birth anniversary recently.
"We extend our greetings to everyone. There is no second opinion that Periyar slogged for social justice. We have no hesitation in extending our greetings to him," he had said in response to a question on his party accusing the DMK of not greeting the people on "Ganesh Chaturthi" and why he has not extended his "greetings" on the late leader's anniversary.
On Sunday, recalling Murugan's statement, Kanimozhi asked in a tweet "is this the respect they show to Periyar?" while referring to today's defacement.
"Is Periyar your answer to NEET, New Education Policy and farmers' protest?," she asked.
Hitting out at Kanimozhi, Murugan said while police were probing the incident, her remarks had "political intentions."
"This is condemnable," he said in a statement. He further wondered if the defacement incident was "planned" since she has made such remarks even as the matter was under enquiry.
Describing the vandalism as "indecent", he said whoever was behind it should be taken to task.
"Saffron is holy. It denotes an all encompassing sacrifice. It is not fair to relate it with a wrong thought," he added.
E V Ramasamy, fondly addressed by supporters and followers in the reverential term 'Periyar', led a popular self-respect movement in the state based on rationalist principles and is the founder of DMK's parent organisation, Dravidar Kazhagam.