The police’s approach to individuals vandalising temple idols is raising concerns, as they are often categorised as “mentally challenged” or assumed to be under the influence of alcohol. Critics argue that such actions draw parallels to historical periods, including Mughal rule, or create an atmosphere reminiscent of countries with a Muslim majority, like Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Recent incidents have brought this issue to the forefront, with police entering a temple to apprehend Hindu Munnani spokesperson AT Elangovan and others without a formal complaint from temple authorities. This move is seen as a demonstration of the DMK government’s and its police’s assertiveness in entering a temple without specific complaints and arresting devotees practising their constitutionally protected rights to silent prayer. Kadeswara Subramanian, the state president of Hindu Munnani, condemned the incident, highlighting what he perceives as police high-handedness.
The backdrop of these events includes a statement by Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai, who, while speaking in Srirangam, announced plans to remove statues of EV Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar) in front of temples. Periyar’s statues bear the controversial inscription, “He who created god is a fool, he who propagates god is a scoundrel, and he who worships god is a barbarian.” In response, Win TV founder and Yadav Maha Sabha installed a banner in Mylapore with the words “Those who do not believe in Gods are fools.” The prompt removal of the banner by Corporation officials and the police has sparked outrage among Hindus, who question why similar actions are not taken against Periyar statues in front of temples. Hindu Munnani strongly condemned the removal of the banner by the Corporation and the police.
Against this backdrop, Kadeswaram Subramaniam explained that Hindu Munnani and Yadav Maha Sabha representatives visited the Mylapore Karpagambal Kabaleeswarar temple to pray and present a supplication to God, a common practice in Tamil Nadu temples. He emphasised that it is customary, especially for those facing challenges and seeking justice from the divine against powerful entities they cannot confront directly.
Subramaniam described the act as a “pradhu” or petition seeking justice from God. In the midst of their prayer, while chanting ‘Om Namashivaya,’ uniformed police officers interrupted them. The police prevented them from continuing their chants and presenting their supplication to God. In a video that has since gone viral on social media, Elangovan argued against the police intervention, questioning the legality of preventing devotees from offering prayers inside the temple and asserting their right to practice their faith without causing inconvenience to fellow devotees.
This incident adds fuel to the ongoing debate about the limits of religious freedom and expression in the state, prompting concerns about potential overreach by law enforcement authorities. As the video gains traction online, it remains to be seen how the Tamil Nadu police and government will respond to the growing criticism of their actions in restricting religious practises within temples.
In a series of incidents raising concerns about potential bias against Hindu practises, the Hindu Munnani has accused Tamil Nadu police officials of entering a temple in Mylapore and arresting members, including A T Elangovan, Senthil, and Murugan, who were reportedly engaged in religious rituals. Subramaniam, the state president of Hindu Munnani, claimed that police used abusive language, forcefully removed the devotees, and arrested them without apparent justification.
The statement further questioned the actions of the police, asking if similar interventions would occur in places of worship for other minority communities, such as churches or mosques. Allegations have been made against a police official who, it is claimed, invited VCK leader Thirumavalavan to unveil the statue of his deceased mother, suggesting potential political motivations. Hindu Munnani called for suitable departmental action against the police officials responsible for the incident.
Additionally, reports have emerged of another temple idol-breaking incident, this time in Viralimalai, a renowned Murugan hill temple. Miscreants vandalised idols en route to the hill temple, with the police attributing the act to potential mental instability. This incident adds to a growing list of more than 20 reported cases of idol vandalism, often attributed to individuals deemed mentally unstable or intoxicated.
In a separate incident, authorities faced backlash for demolishing 13 sacred tombs and closing a perennial well in the Kattu Siva Siddha Viddha Abhyaasa Temple in Tiruvannamalai. The actions are alleged to have been taken overnight to make way for a car parking area, prompting criticism and demands for accountability.
The Sangameswara temple in another event reportedly denied devotees permission to witness the late-night Arthajama Pooja, a significant religious ritual. The temple, known for its unique architecture at the junction of three water sources, has faced recent controversies regarding restricted access to devotees during specific events.
In yet another incident, a history-sheeter named Muralikrishnan allegedly threw a petrol bomb inside the Sri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple in Chennai, citing business losses and personal depression. Meanwhile, in Thiruchendur, temple authorities are accused of collecting an exorbitant entry fee of Rs. 1,000 from devotees without providing receipts, leading to suspicions of discrimination against Hindu practises.
These incidents collectively fuel concerns among Hindus about the targeting of their temples and spiritual practices, raising questions about the fairness and impartiality of the DMK government’s approach. Some critics argue that these actions may be perceived as attempts to appease minority communities, as the government allegedly refrains from interfering in their places of worship and spiritual beliefs