Tamil Nadu’s Youth and Sports Welfare Minister, Udhayanidhi Stalin has once again sparked a row by asserting that his party, the DMK, does not support the construction of a temple on a site where a mosque was destroyed. Stalin’s remarks, coupled with his previous anti-Hindu statements, reaffirm the DMK’s perceived stance against Sanatana Dharma and indicate a continued endorsement of minority appeasement for political gains. His earlier comment, comparing Hinduism to diseases, had drawn national criticism and legal action. Cases in the Madras High Court and a Bihar court summons further highlight the repercussions of his controversial statements.
While speaking to the media on January 18, at the time of inaugurating the torch run for his party youth wing’s upcoming conference in Salem, Udhayanidhi Stalin, clarified the party’s position on temple construction. Stressing that politics and religion should remain separate, he emphasised that the DMK is not against the construction of any temple. However, he expressed reservations about building a temple at a site where a mosque was demolished in 1992, referencing DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s stance. Stalin’s comments were in response to AIADMK General Secretary Edappadi Palaniswami’s approach to participating in the Pran Prathistha of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, where Palaniswami cited health considerations for his decision. Stalin, while acknowledging AIADMK’s expressed wishes, made a satirical remark about Palaniswami’s health condition.
Stalin reiterated DMK’s openness to temples and its alignment with Kalaignar’s (Karunanidhi) perspective that the party does not oppose any particular religion or faith. TR Baalu, the DMK treasurer, had previously stated that spirituality and politics should not be intertwined. In contrast, Palaniswami emphasized AIADMK’s transcendent nature, beyond caste and religion, while expressing willingness to participate in the Ram Temple consecration if his health permits.
In a subtly mocking comment directed at Palaniswami, Stalin referred to his leg pain, insinuating it was due to Palaniswami’s frequent acts of bowing, particularly recalling an incident where he fell at the feet of Sasikala Natarajan. This satirical remark highlighted the political rivalry between the DMK and AIADMK.
— PuthiyathalaimuraiTV (@PTTVOnlineNews) January 18, 2024
In a statement issued on the 14th of this month, DMK Parliamentary Party leader TR Baalu criticised the BJP government, accusing it of exploiting religious faith for political mobilisation and vote-bank politics. Baalu contended that after allegedly “hunting down the people of the country in every way in the last ten years,” the BJP is now presenting the completion of the Ram temple construction as an achievement. He emphasised that an individual’s faith in God is a personal spiritual quest and right, decrying the BJP’s use of bhakti as a capital for political gains.
Baalu asserted that such actions go against the soul of India and the values of the Constitution, expressing concern about the impact on the nation’s future. He accused the BJP of attempting to divert attention from its governance failures by projecting the construction of the Ram temple as an accomplishment. Baalu highlighted the DMK’s commitment to secularism and the principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution, pointing out the party’s efforts in renovating and consecrating thousands of temples under the leadership of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.
He further stated that the DMK has not sought political gain by discussing these initiatives on election platforms. Baalu lauded the steps taken by the DMK government to restore temple assets worth Rs 5,381 crore, emphasising the party’s focus on harmony and fraternity and steering clear of injecting politics into spirituality. The DMK leader criticised the BJP for allegedly attempting to win through deception rather than genuine public service, expressing confidence that the people of India will respond appropriately.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, in a recent meeting at the secretariat, unveiled a series of welfare measures for minorities, sparking both appreciation and criticism. Stalin emphasised that the state budget would contain positive developments, including the inclusion of girl students who studied classes 6 to 12 in Tamil in government-aided minority schools. He expressed the government’s willingness to consider extending the Chief Minister’s breakfast scheme to students of classes 1 to 5 in such institutions.
The Chief Minister also announced plans for a new portal to facilitate approvals, appointments, promotions, and transfers for employees of state-aided minority schools. The government aims to explore possibilities of relaxing the upper age limit for teacher appointments in these institutions. Additionally, steps will be taken to issue registration and renewal of licenses for various homes and hostels upon submission of required documents.
Stalin assured that revised guidelines for financial assistance for pilgrimage to Jerusalem would be released by the end of the month. He pledged to relax restrictions on registering as members in the Christian Priests and Church Employees Welfare Board, with the board set to be established by month-end. Furthermore, the Chief Minister announced that the validity of the ‘Religious Minority’ status certificate for minority institutions would become indefinite, eliminating the need for renewal every five years.
The government plans to extend the establishment of hi-tech labs and initiatives like Vanavil mandram to aided minority schools, with a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) intended to address obstacles in seeking permission for setting up and renovating places of worship.
Critics, however, question the government’s allocation of resources to these welfare measures, given the state’s purported fund crisis. They argue that the generosity extended to various minorities raises concerns about potential political motives and voter pandering. Allegations of the government mixing politics with religion are surfacing, especially considering the state’s financial challenges.
Political commentator Priya Venkat points out instances where the DMK has been accused of playing the politics of religion, including the alleged destruction of over 200 Hindu temples during its three-year rule. Despite court orders, mosques and churches built on water bodies and government lands were reportedly untouched. The government’s provisions of gift hampers to minorities and free distribution of raw rice and sandalwood for specific religious festivals have also fueled criticism.
The government’s reassurances to minorities, with CM Stalin and his son making promises at public meetings, have intensified the debate on the fine line between welfare initiatives and political strategies targeting specific religious groups. The announcement of these measures and the subsequent criticisms underscore the complexities and sensitivities surrounding the intersection of politics and religious welfare in Tamil Nadu.