Periyar statue vandalism to Mersal row, H Raja a serial controversy creator

H Raja. Photo: Facebook
H Raja, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tamil Nadu, created a political storm on Wednesday when a Facebook post from his profile seemed to exhort the razing of ' "casteist" Periyar's' busts amid what was being called the 'statue wars'.

In the past couple of days, statues of Vladimir Lenin, B R Ambedkar, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Periyar have been vandalised in Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, following the Assembly election results in the Northeast.

In the aftermath of the post, a statue of Periyar EV Ramasamy was vandalised in Tiruppattur town. Policemen are said to be guarding the leader's statues across Tamil Nadu since the incident. Two persons were arrested in Vellore for the act. The miscreants were in an inebriated state, the police said. 

The BJP National Secretary said his staff were responsible for the Facebook post that stoked caste sentiments in the southern state. H Raja claimed he was on a flight from New Delhi when the incident took place and his permission wasn't asked for before the admin went ahead with the inflammatory post.

H Raja's controversial Facebook on Tuesday went as: "Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India? What connection has India with Communists? Lenin's statue has been removed in Tripura. Today it is Lenin's statue in Tripura, tomorrow it will be the statue of caste fanatic EV Ramasamy".

However, on Wednesday the BJP leader came up with a clarification on his official page on the social network. Raja wrote, ''We should contest ideas with ideas, not with violence". He also apologised for hurting feelings.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed against him on Wednesday by advocate Surya Prakasam in the Madras High Court.

Asked if the BJP would take action against H Raja, party president Amit Shah, however, said: "No, we will not".

Who is H Raja?

The BJP leader is a one-time MLA from Tamil Nadu's Karaikudi Assembly constituency. He has fought four more elections, both in Lok Sabha and state polls, losing each time. He is a lawyer by qualification and a practising Chartered Accountant. 

He assumed several roles in the BJP, including that of a District Convenor in 1991, followed by the positions of State secretary and state general secretary. Raja became a BJP National Secretary in 2014.

Prior to joining the BJP in 1989, H Raja was an activist with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Motor mouth?

H Raja has hogged the limelight time and again for his controversial statements.

Last year, he kicked up a controversy when he alleged that Tamil actor Vijay's film Mersal spoke against the GST because 'Vijay is Vijay Joseph'. He said Vijay wanted to provoke Hindus as he said, ''Build hospitals before temples". The BJP leader opined that the film's dialogue should have been, "Build hospitals before churches''.

During the JNU-Kanhaiya Kumar issue, he told CPI leader D Raja that he must shoot his own daughter for participating in the "anti-India protests". His comment was later condemned by M Venkiah Naidu, now VIce-President of India.

This is not the first instance when his comments on Periyar incited communal sentiments. He is said to have referred to the backward classes' political icon as "anti-Dalit" during an RSS event, according to a News 18 report. Raja also said he would have beaten Periyar with slippers.

In 2014, the police filed an FIR against him for a communally charged speech that could cause a rift between the Christian and the Muslim communities.

He also once threatened an MDMK leader physically for speaking against PM Narendra Modi.

On Kamal Haasan's political entry, H Raja said that the film star was a ''spineless coward''. Haasan took the jibe in good humour and referred to H Raja as a "bone specialist".

Why Periyar excites sentiments in Tamil Nadu

Periyar Ramasamy is a big anti-caste icon among south India's Dalits. He was against Brahminism and its ideals, and thought Hindi to be an instrument of Hindutva domination. Interestingly, Periyar led a movement in which Hindu idols were destroyed or burnt. Later, he founded a political party of his own, which is said to be the inspiration of all Dravidian political movements in Tamil Nadu.

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