Renowned superstar and politician Kamal Haasan has fueled yet another controversy, saying free India’s first terrorist was a Hindu. He has tried to link terrorism to Hinduism, which can provoke the anger of pro-Hindu organizations and political parties. Earlier this year, he had called for a plebiscite in Kashmir. Last year, Kamal Haasan had sparked another controversy with his comment on the ‘poonool’ (sacred thread) that Brahmins wear. He said that he avoided the sacred thread as it affected him a lot. Political pundits are of the belief that this statement by Haasan has caused him more harm than good. It seems that Kamal Haasan is searching political success through usual religious provocation lines. So-called progressive personality like him is also trying the same communal formula for political mileage.
It is worth mentioning that on February 21, 2018, the superstar launched his political party, Makkal Needhi Maiam in Madurai, seen as Tamil Nadu’s political capital. The 63-year-old Haasan said, “My party’s name is Makkal Needhi Maiam (roughly translated to People’s Justice Centre).” Elaborating on his party’s ideology later, Kamal Haasan said that the party could not be bracketed as left or right but would draw the best from all ideologies. I’m Centre. This is why the party’s name also included the word, centre.
Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan spoke to Afternoon Voice on the controversial statement of Haasan just before boarding the plane for Madurai. She hit back at Haasan for his comments. She said, “Actor Kamal Haasan is recalling Gandhi’s assassination now and calling it Hindu terrorism, it is condemnable. Standing amidst minorities in Tamil Nadu bye-election campaign, he is lighting a dangerous fire to gain votes by minority appeasement.” She wondered why the actor-turned-politician did not comment on the blasts in Sri Lanka last month, in which 253 people were killed.
Soundararajan said that Gandhi’s assassination was decades old, and the guilty had been punished. Tamil Nadu BJP chief also accused Haasan of violating the Model Code of Conduct and hoped that the Election Commission will take action against him.
During campaigning in Aravakurichi assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu, Makkal Needhi Maiam’s chief said, “Free India’s first terrorist was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse who killed Mahatma Gandhi. I am not saying this because this is a Muslim-dominated area, but I am saying this before a statue of Gandhi. The actor-politician said that he was one of those proud Indians who desire an India with equality and where the three colours in the tricolour, an obvious reference to different faiths, remained intact. Earlier too, Haasan had stoked a row, when in November 2017, he took potshots at what he termed as “Hindu extremism. The BJP and Hindu outfits had lashed out at him. Aravakurichi is one of the four Assembly constituencies where bypolls are scheduled on May 19. MNM has fielded S Mohanraj from this seat.
On the other hand, Kamal Haasan’s party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam, defended him. Party’s office-bearer Mahalakshmi Surya said, “Kamal Haasan is our party president and whatever he said we support him. His statement is in support of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. It should be handled with sense, not sensationalism.”
In February 2019, Kamal Haasan was at the centre of a controversy after he asked why India was scared to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. He referred to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as Azad Kashmir. Haasan made the statement when asked about the suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir in which 47 CRPF personnel were killed. However, he later claimed his comments were taken out of context.
During a Twitter interaction with his fans, the actor was asked which books (nool) have had an impact on his life. Immediately after the tweet, Haasan faced a severe backlash from the Brahmin community. President of the Tamil Brahmins Association M Narayan said that this statement by Kamal Haasan was solely to take his set political agenda forward. According to senior journalist and political analyst RK Radhakrishnan, this was a desperate attempt to reach out to the people. Anti-Brahminism had run its course and will not work.
It is notable that few decades ago, anti-Brahmin and Dravidian parties not only flourished but came to power in Tamil Nadu. Late CM of the state Jayalalithaa was a Brahmin but she became the leader of Dravid. Jayalalithaa also came to politics from the film industry. Kamal Haasan is also a Brahmin by caste. His house is located in neighbourhood of that of Jayalalitha in Chennai. Veteran Dravid leader Karunanidhi was also an actor. Perhaps, Kamal Haasan is trying to follow both leaders, and abusing Brahmins and Hindus. But political success is far away so far.
Chetan Rajhans, national spokesperson of Sanatan Sanstha, also condemned the statement of Kamal Haasan. He said, “It is completely baseless allegation. Nathuram Godse was a nationalist. He never waged a war against the nation. The murder of a person does not symbolise terrorism. Many politicians are accused of murder charges but they are not terrorists. Therefore, the interpretation by Kamal Haasan is condemnable. It is unfortunate and an example of hatred.”