Kumar Chellapan’s ‘Fatwas Ban Outsiders’ Entry into Rameshwaram Villages’ (The Pioneer December 16,2013) is full of falsehood, mischievous misrepresentations and blatant errors. It exposes the prejudiced, hate mongering journalist culture of the Sangh Parivar’s mouthpiece. The biased and motivated ‘report’ exposes the unethical journalistic ‘culture’ of the Sangh Parivar.
Kumar Chellapan alleges that Fatwas (Muslim religious edicts) have been issued to ban the entry of the outsiders into Rameswaram villages. To my thorough knowledge, no such fatwa has been issued in any village in Ramanathapuram Distirct. The so-called reporter needs to learn basic facts of geography and politics. Let it be rightly known that only Pamban is in Rameshwaram island and that all the other villages located in Ramanathapuram District come under Thiruvadanai Constituency and its MLA is Suba Thangavelan of the DMK.
Kumar Chellapan alleges “Ramanathapuram is represented in the Tamil Nadu Assembly by MH Jawahirullah of the ‘Muslaim’ (sic) Munnetra Kazhagam (MMK), an Islamic outfit.” It is true that I represent the Ramanathapuram Constituency but the political party I belong to is Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (Humanitarian People’s Party). It is a registered political party which works for the welfare of all communities, Muslims not excluded. Further he states that ‘The MMK was an ally of the AIADMK in the 2011 Assembly election and switched over to the DMK camp during the July 2012 Rajya Sabha election.” Incidentally the Rajya Sabha elections took place in July 2013, not in July 2012. These factual errors are enough to expose his ignorance of simple political matters.
Chellapan states that “Local Jamaath Councils have issued ‘fatwas’ declaring Muslim-majority villages out of bounds for people even from the district itself. At the entry points to Athiyuthu, Puthuvalassai, Panaikulam, Azhagankulam and Sitharkottai are found such boards, all put up by the local Jamaath Councils.” His ‘guide’ Arumugam reports “There are boards deep inside these villages which declare outsiders are not allowed,” These allegations are totally wrong and utterly false. The truth is no such board declaring that these villages are out of bounds for non- Muslims was ever put up in these villages. There were notice boards but they carried no fatwa. They merely displayed completely innocuous restrictions against indiscriminate pasting of bills, noisy announcements from loudspeakers mounted on vehicles and parking of vehicles obstructing smooth flow of traffic. Pioneer did not corroborate its version by publishing the offensive board. The actual pictures of the notice boards are reproduced below for the benefit of anyone who cares to verify the real message and not to get carried away by rumours of nonexistent fatwas.
The message on the notice board translated into English reads as follows:
Warning: Advertising and Pasting bills without permission and using loudspeakers mounted on motor vehicles inside the village is disallowed. Those who violate this will be lawfully proceeded against. Do not park vehicles disturbing flow of traffic – Muslim Jamath Thajul Islam Sangam, Pottakavayal
There is not a single word in this notice which states that this village is out of bounds for outsiders. Further these notice boards only reinstate the existing general restrictions relating to billboards, pasting bills and loudspeakers on vehicles and are well within the ambit of Tamilnadu Open Places (prevention of disfigurement) Act 1959) and The Motor Vehicles Act. These restrictions apply to all parties and organizations irrespective of their religious or caste affiliations.
In Alagankulam both Muslim and Hindu community leaders had come to an agreement several years back and had put up boards of which one is given below. (Pioneer had not published this picture)
The translation of this into English is:
Warning: Propagation through Loud speakers, Pasting bills and writing advertisements on walls are disallowed inside the village. Severe action will be taken against those who violate this – Hindu Muslim United Sabha Alagankulam.
Quoting Senthilvel, in reality an office bearer of BJP in Alagankulam masqueraded here as a foreign exchange dealer, it is reported that“the villagers are still in a state of shock as some Muslim youth slaughtered a cow in front of the Muneeswarankoil Temple. ‘The Jamaath Council president and secretary told us that they were helpless as the youth would not listen to them.” This is an unadulterated lie. No slaughter of any cow took place in the village in front of the temple.
As was their practice in previous years during the Bakrid festival, bulls were slaughtered at Alagankulam in a compounded place belonging to one Noorullah, a Jamaat office bearer. The compounds was about 100 feet away from the temple But this year a few people belonging to Senthilvel’s party organized a road roko protesting against this and the police booked cases against them. In Alagankulam harmonious relationship exists between Muslims and Hindus. Both communities have such cordial understanding that the Presidentship of the Panchayat is shared in rotation among Muslims and Hindus. The board put up by Hindu Muslim United Sabah is an indication of this unity.
These type of boards have been in existence in the villages for more than 30 years. Such boards have also been placed in some Hindu majority villages. These restrictions have contributed to preserving social harmony. No wonder there had been no clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities in these villages. I should also mention that these restrictions have not been strictly implemented in these villages. I am giving below pictures posters pasted by some Hindu organisations 2 weeks ago in a bus shelter at Panaikulam one of the villages mentioned by Kumar Chellapan.
Quoting Kuppuramu , State President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Ramanathpuram District President of RSS, presented here as a lawyer it is claimed that in Pamban “the Panchayath road has a board put by the Islamic extremists banning outsiders from the road: ‘Not a public thoroughfare. Ladies move about in this place,’ says the board.”
The photograph of the notification which Pioneer has not published is given below:
This notice is not on any public thoroughfare of Pamban. It is not on any main road. It is on the wall of a house in a narrow by-lane in the Muslim mohallah of Pamban. Four such noticeboards were put up by the local Jamaath (not by ‘Muslim extremists’) about 4 years ago following an eve teasing incident to ensure protection to women. Restriction of movement in this exclusive women passage is applicable to Muslim men as much as to others. When we have exclusive buses, exclusive seats in buses and separate trains compartments for women what is wrong is providing an exclusive passage for women in the narrow lanes?
Chellapan also quotes Kuppuramu as saying “Pamban Swamy (1848-1929) a great Saivaite saint was born in Pamban. Pamban Swamy, who preached love, compassion, kindness and equality, would be turning in his grave if he comes to know what his successors have done in his place of birth.” Pamban has been a peaceful village with the Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities living in harmonious and cordial relationship. It has not given any space for any fascist organisation to rear its ugly head, perhaps much to the discomfiture of Sangh Parivar communalists. Pamban village also encompasses Kundukaal the place where Swami Vivekanada first landed on 26th January 1897 after his famous lecture in Chicago. The Raja of Ramanathpuram welcomed him at Kundukaal. When the Ramakrishna Mutt wanted to construct a commemorative structure in honour of Vivekanada, it had to approach a Muslim family namely the Mandapam Maraicoir family who owned that particular place. The Mutt was prepared to pay the market value for the land. However the Muslim family preferred to donate 5 acres of Land to the Mutt to build the commemorative structure. This is now known as Vivekanada Illam and was declared open in 2009. So Pamban Swamy who had many Muslim well-wishers and patrons would have been doubly rejoiced to know of the Hindu – Muslim unity which is prevailing in his birth place.
Chellappan also quotes Kuppuramu the VHP leader as saying, “during the DMK regime in 2008, some Muslim youths hoisted the national flag with chappals at Vethalai village. The case was hushed up by Hassan Ali, the then MLA of the Congress… there was another instance of tricolour with chappals being hoisted in Puthumadom (sic) village which too was hushed up Hassan Ali.” No such event dishonouring our National flag had happened in Vethalai village. In Pudumadam five students studying in 5th and 6th standards playfully hoisted chappals for which they were charged. The police booked them and produced them in the court and they were fined Rs1000 each. There was no question of the matter being hushed up by the then MLA Mr.Hassan Ali.
Quoting VHP President Kuppuramu, Chellappan says “nearly 50 per cent of the business establishments in Ramanathapuram are owned by members of the Muslim community. A Hindu can launch his business only if he gets approval from the Muslim community. This is an unwritten rule in the district” This is a blatant lie. Ramanthapuram District has of course the highest Muslim population in the state in terms of percentage. Even then it does not cross 15 per cent. According to 2001 census, the District population comprises 80.41% Hindus, 14.4% Muslims, Christians 5.08% and others 0.11%. Muslims being a trading community no doubt have good number of business establishments in Ramanathapuram. Muslim business establishments in Ramanathapuram Town will be around 20 per cent and in the entire district it would be around 12-15% and not 50 percent as alleged. Moreover the Muslim NRIs and Gulf returnees have invested their hard- earned money in Ramanathapuram which has contributed to its overall development and has generated employment opportunities to all sections. It is a win-win situation for all communities. Any Hindu can open a business venture in Ramanathapuram and they do not need anybody’s permission, leave alone the Muslim community’s. The charge is nothing but a naked lie, not a sin for the followers of Goebbels.
Chellapan states that according to Suba Nagarajan, a BJP leader in Ramanathapuram “Religious conversion and smuggling are rampant in the district. Panna Ismail and Bilal Mohammed, who murdered Hindu leader Vellaiyappan in July 2013 at Vellore had come to Keezhakarai after the murder. The police should probe the details of their visit to Keezhakarai,” If Mr. Suba Nagarajan is really in the know of such movements and activities, he should have brought them in writing to the notice of the District Police authorities. That no such complaint has been lodged is an indication about the flimsy nature of these sweeping statements. Further if at all the wanted accused, for whose capture the State government had announced awards, were really in Keelakarai, Mr. Nagarajan should have given the information to the police which would have enabled them to apprehend the criminals and prevented further murders.
Chellappan also states that Nagarajan has stated “Muslims in the district are on a warpath with the Hindus since 1981”. This is a misconception. By and large the Hindu and Muslim community are living in harmony and cooperation. Even in the villages mentioned by Chellappan Muslims have contributed considerably for the development of Government schools and hospitals which have benefitted all communities.
Quoting N. Suriyaprakash the Ramanathpuram Town President of BJP the article states that “for the last 20 years, only Muslim candidates had been elected from this constituency. Only Muslims could be elected from this Assembly constituency,” It is true that Ramanathapuram Assembly Constituency has been represented by Muslims belonging to various secular parties from 1996. What is wrong in it when someone is elected in a free and fair election? However it should be noted that prior to 1996, for 44 years (including in 1981 from when Nagarajan alleges ‘that Muslim are on warpath with Hindus’) Ramanathpuram constituency had been represented by Hindus belonging to various secular parties.
As a Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Ramanathapuram constituency I request Kumar Chellappan to read my speeches and questions in the Assembly. To his wonder he will find that I have spoken a lot about improving the infrastructural facilities and extending other facilities to help the Hindu pilgrims visiting not only the famous Shri Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram but also in Thiruuthrakosamangai and Tirupullani which also house famous Hindu temples. I have taken up several issues relating to these towns in my constituency to the authorities and redressed various grievances. True Hindu leaders like Swamy Pravananda of Ramakrishna Kudil in Rameswaram would vouch for my services to all sections of the society.
Kuppuramu and the Sangh Parivar are nourishing hatred against Muslims as well as Hindus that they could not succeed in drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims in Ramanathpuram District. This news article is a reflection of their frustration. Hindus, Muslims and Christians population in Ramanathapuram District will never fall a prey to their nefarious designs and will continue to live in harmony, peace and mutual cooperation.