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Thoothukudi Police Firing Was A Violation Of Human Rights; Which Side Is Rajinikanth On?

Rajinikanth At The Inauguration of MGR Statue
Rajinikanth and Others At The Inauguration of MGR Statue

Rajinikanth has played the superstar on-screen for a long time. He is used to solving problems with just one look, a clench of fist and a few punch dialogues. He is the saviour, the thalaivar on screen but his recent Thoothukudi visit proved that he has a long way to go before he became a people’s leader.

The actor, who’s soon to start his political career, had strongly condemned the violence at Thoothukudi where 13 people were killed in police firing while protesting against the Sterlite Copper Plant.

Like any conscientious politician in the making, Rajinikanth on May 30 announced that he will visit Thoothukudi and meet the injured at the hospital. The visit was orchestrated by the Rajini Makkal Mandram with the media showing Rajinikanth visiting the hospital, interacting with a few people injured in the protests and later announcing Rs 2 lakhs each for the kin of victims who died in the police firing.

What did not go down well was what he said later. Addressing the media, Rajinikanth pointed out that those who indulged in arson were not the general public and that it was an intelligence failure. He claimed that it happened during the Jallikattu protests as well.

Rajinikanth added that there was no violence or bloodshed in the first 99 days of the protest. It was a silent one. Only after anti-social elements infiltrated the agitation did things go haywire. He further said that anti-social elements have become active in recent times and praised late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for keeping it under control during her tenure.

His comments were very much in sync with that of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E. Palaniswami who had said, “Some anti-social elements intruded into the agitation (against Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi) on May 22 and attacked police and torched police vehicles. Under tense situation, police resorted to firing, which was not pre-plannned,” while defending the police excesses.

When further questioned on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence and his stand on Sterlite, an agitated Rajinikanth, brushing aside reporters, said, ” “If there are going to be protests for every issue, Tamil Nadu will turn into a graveyard.”

To top it all, a video of a youth asking Rajinikanth, “Who are you?” as he approached his hospital bed immediately went viral with people questioning what purpose he served by coming to Thoothukudi so many days after the violence. The fact that the politician-in-the-making wanted to make a statement by visiting Thoothukudi only after the dust settled down didn’t go unnoticed.

Many members of Opposition parties slammed his statements and accused him of colluding with the BJP and AIADMK governments at the Centre and the State respectively.

Reacting to Rajinikanth’s statement, DMK working president M.K. Stalin said, “It sounds like an echo of the BJP and the ruling AIADMK’s statements. Anyway, he (Rajinikanth) is a superstar. As he has said he knows who the anti-socials are. He can identify them for the benefit the country. Let us see if he does that.”

The Tamil Movie Journalists Association too condemned Rajinikanth for his aggressive behaviour with mediapersons. Rajinikanth later issued a statement expressing regret over his angry outburst. He stated that his intent was to not hurt anyone.

Rajinikanth, who’s film Kaala is set to release next week, is yet to set a timeline for his political party. Whether it’s the formation of the Cauvery Water Management Board, Jallikattu, IPL matches or Sterlite, he has been making statements on all the relevant issues mostly through his social media accounts. But by attributing police excesses to anti-social elements, he is brushing aside a  people’s movement and posing as an apologist of the Government. In a democratic country, people have the right to protest and express discontent, but no one has the right to open fire on unarmed civilians.

Moreover, by advocating Jayalalithaa’s style of governance, he exhibited a leaning towards an autocratic style of governance where voices of dissent are silenced. It’s the same actor who had once said that “even God will not be able to save Tamil Nadu if she (Jayalalithaa) came back to power”.

Thoothukudi must have been a lesson for Rajinikanth’s political beginnings. The police firing at Tuticorin that claimed 13 lives was a gross violation of human rights. By attributing it to anti-social elements, Rajinikanth has shown which side he is on.

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