The BJP on Monday demanded that DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin apologise and withdraw his “eradicate Sanatana Dharma” remark or prepare to be dragged to court for “hate speech”, continuing to milk the issue in an election year.
However, the Tamil Nadu minister stood his ground and asserted he had said nothing derogatory or wrong, nor called for “genocide” against Hindus, and was ready to face “any legal case”.
The BJP’s Delhi unit wrote to DMK president and Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin asking that his son “take back” his remarks or face legal consequences.
Udhayanidhi had at a writers’ conference on Saturday said that “Sanatana Dharma is against the idea of social justice and must be eradicated”. The BJP alleged that this was a call “for genocide of 80% of the population of Bharat, who follow Sanatan Dharma”.
On Monday, the BJP claimed that the “entire nation is aghast” at Udhayanidhi’s “provocative statements” and his alleged comparison of Sanatana Dharma to diseases like dengue and malaria that are to be “eradicated” rather than “opposed”.
DMK circles here see this as a desperate bid by the BJP to deflect attention from the Opposition INDIA alliance’s successful meeting in Mumbai, and the emerging unity among Opposition parties against the Centre’s efforts to have a system of simultaneous state and national elections.
“I only called for doing away with the principles of Sanatana Dharma and not for killing any people,” Udhayanidhi, state sports and youth affairs minister, told reporters in Chennai late on Sunday night.
He said he stood by his criticism of what Santana Dharma had symbolised over the centuries: social inequality, caste discrimination and the enslavement of women.
Udhayanidhi stressed that the word he had used was “ozhippu” (eradication), borrowing from the name of the conference — Sanatana Ozhippu Maanadu — organised by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artistes AssociaStion.
When political adversaries say “Dravidam ozhippom” or “communism ozhippom”, do they mean they are going to “kill” cadres of the DMK and communist parties, he asked.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of a “Congress-mukt Bharat”, does it mean that Congress members would be “eliminated”, he added, accusing the BJP of twisting his words for political ends.
Udhayanidhi spoke to the media again on Monday, saying his speech at the conference was in the public domain and anyone could check it for themselves.
“I did not speak against any religion, I only spelt out what the Dravidian Model — the egalitarian idea of access to everything for everyone — implies, and what it has been doing (under successive DMK governments) to reduce social inequalities, in contrast to the Sanatana Model which treated women so shabbily, in particular,” he said.
“They (the BJP) are conspiring against me,” he alleged.
Earlier on Monday, a letter from Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva to Stalin was handed over to the principal resident commissioner, Tamil Nadu, at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi.
Udhayanidhi’s remark “constitutes hate speech that incites malicious action against Sanatani Indians” and is “a punishable offence as directed by the Supreme Court of India”, the letter said.
Apart from demanding an apology and a retraction from Udhayanidhi for “hurting the sentiments of over 100 crore Sanatana Dharmi Indians”, it urged the chief minister to “condemn” his son’s statement.
The signatories to the letter included four BJP parliamentarians from Delhi, besides office-bearers of the Delhi BJP.