In July this year, the Hindu Makkal Katchi charged Kamal Haasan with aiming to ‘erode Tamil Hindu culture’. Their ire was directed at Bigg Boss, the show Kamal was hosting, as they felt it was ‘against Tamil culture’. The subtext of the protest was that the fringe group felt the show also supported an anti-Narendra Modi narrative. They cited the presence of Juliana, one of the contestants on the show who was part of the Marina beach uprising in support of Jallikattu in January, during which she raised slogans against Narendra Modi and the BJP government.
Bigg Boss was not the first time Kamal and the Hindu outfit had crossed swords. In March, the actor had commented on the Mahabharata, saying, “In Mahabharata, Panchali was used as a pawn while the men gambled. She was used as a collateral. And India is a country that respects and honours a book that revolves around men gambling away a woman as if she was a mere object.” The Hindu Makkal Katchi filed a PIL against Haasan for the remark.
It is perhaps these encounters that Kamal Haasan had in mind when he referred to “Hindu terror”‘ in his weekly column in the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan. It was titled “One cannot deny Hindu terror anymore”.
Making the point that Hindus cannot claim that extremism does not exist among them any more, Kamal wrote: “In the past, the Hindu right used to engage only in intellectual debates with the other religious groups. Once this approach started failing, they have resorted to muscle power. They too started indulging in violence. The Hindus cannot challenge others to show extremists among them since extremism has spread to that extent even among the right wing groups.”
Nothing could be more erroneous than equating all Hindus with Hindu Makkal Katchi. Even if Kamal was referring to acts of violence by cow vigilantes or those opposing ‘love jihad’, he should have called out those specific lumpen elements who take the law into their own hands.
“Hindu terror” or “Hindu extremism” is too sweeping a term to be used loosely and irresponsibly. One suspects the actor used it only to ensure his Thursday column trends.
For more than a year now, Kamal has used different platforms to broadcast his opinion. He loved the world of 140 characters so much that AIADMK ministers, often the target of his criticism, dubbed him a Twitter warrior. Next came Bigg Boss, and now it is Ananda Vikatan. “Watch this space”‘ indeed rings true in Kamal’s case.
But while headline-hunting seems a possible motive, there is also possibly a method to Kamal’s fireworks. He realises that thanks to its backseat driving (of) the AIADMK government, the BJP is not exactly the most popular party in Tamil Nadu today. This column is the second attempt to position himself as one of the fiercest critics of the BJP, having declared early on that his colour is not saffron. In October, he expressed regret over having supported demonetisation and asked the Prime Minister to admit it was a mistake.
“His anti-BJP position is consistent. He wants to channelise the anger among the people against the BJP. We have to note that even the DMK has not used the term ‘Hindu terror’ ever. Kamal can say it without fear because unlike many, he is not scared of income tax raids,” says RK Radhakrishnan, political analyst.
But then his selective highlighting of ‘Hindu terror’ in response to a question by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is ironic — given how the neighbouring state is witnessing the arrest of several Muslim youth who are accused of being part of an ISIS module. It seems like a Left-Haasan jugalbandi to ensure the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’ is underlined, to negate the reality of ISIS modules in Kerala. It has given a handle to the Sangh parivaar that accuses Kamal of not being secular in his criticism.
Given that Kamal has made his political intentions very clear, how will Tamil Nadu react to this attempt to communalise and paint every Hindu with a radical brush? Social activist A Narayanan calls it a blunder and says it shows Kamal Haasan’s disconnect with the common people.
“He writes great scripts but he is not good at choosing the right words on ordinary issues,” says Narayanan. “Kamal Haasan has never been a grassroots person and has been seen as an elitist because of his family background and the kind of roles he did. He will be a good dissenter, not a leader.”
Kamal Haasan’s visit to the Ennore creek last week to highlight the environmental degradation on the outskirts of Chennai was seen as focusing on people’s issues. His column on ‘Hindu terror’ is akin to delivering a dud after a superhit at the box office.