The cyclone, reminiscent of the 2015 floods, wreaked havoc, leaving several areas inundated and a rising death toll. In response, Seva Bharathi activated its volunteers through WhatsApp messages, urging them to be prepared for immediate deployment. Essential items, including food, provisions, vegetables, cooking oil, baby food, milk, bread, biscuits, bed sheets, paste, and medicines, were collected in advance. Common kitchens were set up to prepare food for distribution in the affected regions.
Undeterred by heavy rains and hip-deep waters, Seva Bharati volunteers initiated relief operations soon after the cyclone Michaung hit the State. They ventured into the affected areas, distributing essentials and food packets, and left their contact numbers for further assistance, be it medical help or evacuating the elderly to safer places. The response was overwhelming, with over 3,000 calls from affected individuals seeking assistance.
In some instances, Seva Bharati collaborated with officials in rescue operations, while in other areas, they transported patients to safety or facilitated their admission to nearby hospitals. Despite these laudable efforts, the DMK IT wing attempted to discredit the RSS and Seva Bharati, highlighting relief distribution by Muslims and insinuating bias. It was pointed out that these efforts were directed toward their own community rather than providing assistance to Hindus.
The narrative further escalated on social media, with misleading claims that only Muslims and Christians were engaged in flood relief activities, while Hindu organisations, particularly the RSS, were allegedly absent. Anti-Hindu elements propagated false information, arguing that Hindu temples remained closed, unlike mosques and churches offering shelter to the affected.
In response to these allegations, it was clarified that Hindu organisations, including the RSS, were actively participating in flood relief activities. The controversy was fueled by a tweet from a DMK-supporting journalist, Senthilvel, insinuating the absence of RSS workers in the relief efforts. Senthilvel’s tweet questioned the visibility of RSS members while praising Muslims for their engagement and the opening of churches and mosques for victims.
The controversy surrounding the relief efforts underscores the challenges faced by volunteer organisations during times of crisis. Despite the selfless service provided by Seva Bharati and RSS, attempts to undermine their contributions persist. The narrative, pushed by anti-Hindu elements, raises questions about the politicization of relief efforts and the need for a more unified response to natural disasters, transcending political affiliations.
In another Tweet , he retweeted his one 2021 posts which said, “Do not demolish mosques and churches. That would only provide shelter for Hindus during natural disasters. Do not suck out the identities of Muslims. It will protect lives during the time of accidents.”
Cadres of Muslim organisations, Maulvis, and proponents of Dravidian ideology shared Senthilvel’s tweet, spreading the narrative that only mosques and churches were providing shelter to people, while Hindu temples remained closed. The false claim suggested a lack of involvement by Hindu organisations, particularly the RSS, in relief efforts.
Contrary to these allegations, Hindu organisations, including Seva Bharati, RSS, and Ramakrishna Math, have been actively engaged in relief activities. These organisations set up temporary kitchens to distribute food directly to severely affected areas and opened shelters for those whose homes were flooded. Importantly, these efforts were undertaken without seeking publicity through photos or videos.
Several private-owned Hindu temples, in addition to those managed by the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department, are providing shelter for people affected by the floods. Hindu organisations and BJP cadres are also involved in rescuing people from waterlogged homes, demonstrating their commitment to humanitarian efforts.
It is essential to dispel misinformation and recognize the collective efforts of various organizations, irrespective of religious affiliations, in providing relief to those affected by the cyclone. Hindus organisations continue to work diligently to assist people in need, with a focus on service rather than seeking validation for their efforts.
As Tamil Nadu continues to grapple with the aftermath of the cyclone, the focus must remain on collaborative efforts to alleviate the suffering of affected communities. The controversy surrounding relief activities serves as a reminder of the importance of unity in the face of adversity and the need to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of all organisations working towards the common goal of relief and recovery.