Tamil Nadu BJP Chief L Murugan and 100 other party workers were detained in Tiruttani, after the party decided to go ahead with ‘Vetri Vel Yatra’, despite the AIADMK government denying permission for the same.
The yatra is seen as an attempt by the BJP to consolidate Hindu votes in the state ahead of the Assembly elections in 2021. BJP leader H Raja said that the party will go ahead with the Vetri Vel Yatra if permitted, else, he said, “it will be an agitation.”
Vetri Vel Yatra is a month-long rally, visiting six abodes of Lord Muruga and modelled on the Rath Yatra, was scheduled to begin from 6 November to 6 December, from Tiruttani temple in the north of Tamil Nadu to Tiruchendur temple.
PILs Cite Yatra Poses Health Risks
BJP leaders including Murugan, Kishan Reddy, H Raja, CT Ravi and Annamalai had left for Tiruttani from Chennai on Friday morning to pray at the Murugan temple there. While the senior leaders were in an open vehicle, a huge crowd of party workers surrounded the vehicle, waving BJP flags. Policemen stopped the crowd and then took the leaders into preventive custody. The police said they will be booked soon for violating the prohibitory orders under section 144.
On Thursday, the Tamil Nadu government, ruled by AIADMK, denied permission for the procession in view of the coronavirus pandemic and in the interest of the people of the state.
After the state government made a submission in the Madras High Court on the matter, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said it was not ‘legally’ possible to permit the yatra, or journey, slated from 6 November to 6 December.
Several public interest litigation petitions have been filed in the Madras High Court against the yatra. Advocate General Vijay Narayan even citied a government order that prohibits religious, political and social gatherings until 15 November.
Many have raised the issue that the procession poses as a risk in increasing the spread of COVID-19 besides creating law and order problems.
Ravikumar, an MP from the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a DMK ally, tweeted that it was a victory for secularism following the order. The party had written to the Tamil Nadu police to deny permission for the yatra, as it could create communal unrest.
‘Lord Murugan Has Given Permission’
The BJP has, however, said that this does not violate the law but, "we won't remain silent when there is a harm to Tamil people, Hindu deity, Tamil God, Tamil culture and the Tamil language."
Tamil Nadu BJP chief L Murugan argued that, “Lord Murugan has given its permission” and that “it was his Constitutional right to pray to the lord and announced that he would proceed to Thiruttani to begin the 'Vel Yatra' of the BJP in Tamil Nadu.”
BJP leader H Raja had argued why the state government had allowed schools to reopen in the middle of a pandemic, but not granted the permission for the yatra.
"The state govt is allowing schools to reopen but not permitting the yatra saying there is a fear of the second wave of coronavirus. If allowed we'll go ahead with the yatra, else it'll be an agitation,” H Raja said, quoted ANI.
BJP's CT Ravi tweeted, "Knowing that Murugan is like their son – Tamil women shall go together for Vel Yatra today."
Dalit leader Thol Thirumavalavan and Communist Party of India (Marxist), too, slammed the ruling party, saying that it would affect the law and order situation and urged the state government not to allow the yatra.
AIADMK leader and State Fisheries Minister D Jayakaumar warned that law would take its own course if anyone violated the restrictions.
The MGR Controversy
What is interesting to note that images of former Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) founder MG Ramachandran have been used in the video released by the BJP state leader L Murugan. This has sparked off a controversy as it uses several stills of the veteran leader and actor along with the BJP flag, the party symbol -- lotus and pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The song, accompanying the video, says: “Ponmana Semmalin Amsamaai naangal Modiyai kandomada” which means “We see MGR in the form of Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi.”
The visuals for the lines show the image of MGR transforming into that of Modi.
AIADMK spokesperson and former minister Vaigaiselvan, too, has opposed the use of MGR to popularise BJP in rural Tamil Nadu.
A few BJP leaders say that they used MGR’s image to convey the message that Modi is a defender of the weaker sections of people. Several criticised them for using an image of MGR, who was a strong Dravidian and an atheist, in a ‘communally ‘charged’ campaign.
BJP members justified the move, saying that MGR is not an atheist since he had visited the Kollur Mookambiga temple many times.
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