Kannada film music director Hamsalekha has denigrated late Pejawara Shri Vishvesha Teertha Swami ji by saying that he went to Dalits’ houses only for publicity. After much outrage he has apologised for his comments but it has revealed how far Periyarism has found hold in Karnataka through Sandalwood.
While speaking at SaReGaMaPa show of Zee TV Kannada in Mysuru, the music director is said to have denigrated late Pejawar Swamiji and deity Ranganatha. He mocked Swamiji’s visits to and stays in Dalit colonies as mere publicity stunt. It is reported that he said, “The best he can do is to go there and sit. Can he eat chicken if offered, or can he eat mutton fry or liver fry? I don’t think that visiting the houses of Dalits is a big achievement”.
He also said that instead of doing such publicity stunts people from forward castes should invite SC, ST people to their houses, feed them and wash their utensils to show that there really isn’t any discrimination based on caste. The late Pejawara Swamiji was recently conferred Padma Vibhushan for his service towards the society. He was one of the key figures that spearheaded the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
The current seer of the Pejawara Matha in Udupi, Sri Vishwaprasanna Theertha Swamiji condemned Hamsalekha and said that the late Swamiji’s visits to SC/ST colonies were genuine and not for publicity. Saying that his guru had been doing it for decades, he assured that he will continue in his path to fulfill his aim of reaching out to SC/STs.
So Hamsalekha’s comments met with widespread criticism and police complaints were filed against him for hurting religious sentiments by denigrating a revered seer. However he immediately apologised saying that “I know I was wrong in making such comments in an awards ceremony. I have high respect for the efforts being made by elders and personalities to banish untouchability and I have high regard and respect for these efforts. Even my wife did not like some of my utterances and I sought apologies from her.”
Many Kanadigas were outraged by his remarks as the seer is a revered figure across the state. However as the Dravidianist ideology has been taking roots in Karnataka recently, some turned it into an issue of free speech. While many of his fans who didn’t like his distasteful remarks were not even aware of his caste, others turned it into a caste issue. They wrongly compared his comments with the beef issue saying that at least now those who are against consumption of beef should understand the importance of food choices.
This is classic behaviour of Periyarists and Dravidianists, diverting and muddling issues by raising unrelated questions. Hamsalekha wasn’t off the mark in asking upper caste people to invite and feed SC/STs in their houses. But while on one hand opposing Madde Snana(the practice of rolling on plantain leaves left by Brahmins after eating out of them) they demand that upper castes should prove their sincerity by washing utensils.
Similar to how Periyarists in Tamil Nadu ask whether Brahmins would give their daughters to SC/STs for marriage to compensate for “2000 years of oppression”, these so-called Kannadiga activists ask if the Swamiji would eat chicken or mutton. Instead of making SC/STs economically stronger, these activists have been turning agrarian feudalism into caste discrimination. They have actually been diverting the attention of the marginalised sections from real empowerment like education and economic independence, and focusing it on abusing and demanding tokenism.