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Sunday, October 1, 2023

“Will you dissolve all idols?” Tamil Nadu police harass Ganesha murti maker

A video of a BJP functionary making murtis for Ganesh Chaturthi alleging that Tamil Nadu police are harassing him based on false accusations has gone viral on social media. Police accused him of using the banned Plaster of Paris to make murtis, reportedly to target his business.

Murugan, a native of Shenkottai in Tenkasi, has been running the business of making murtis using eco-friendly materials for decades. Murugan and his father, Thirumalai, make murtis of Hindu deities and sell them through their shop Sri Murugan Handcrafts. They specialize in making murtis of Ganesha ranging from 2 feet to 12 feet and during Ganesh Chaturthi season. As the festival is fast approaching, Murugan has been receiving hundreds of orders from across the state and even from neighboring Kerala. Recently a video of him narrating his ordeal on how he is being targeted by the Tamil Nadu police on false charges for his political affiliation went viral on social media.

In the video, Murugan alleges that a team of cops led by Shenkottai DSP Nagashankar came to his handcrafts shop on September 7 and accused him of using the banned Plaster of Paris compound to cast murtis. Murugan says that he only uses eco-friendly materials like tapioca flour, sago, and liquified paper. In one of the videos doing rounds on social media, he can be seen breaking a murti to show the cops that their accusations were false.

He says, “I don’t mix anything else. I have been in this business for 20 years. But DSP Nagashankar, along with more than ten cops, came to my shop and said that they had received complaints that I use Plaster of Paris to make murtis. I told them that it was not true and volunteered to immerse a murti to show that it would completely dissolve. The DSP asked me, ‘Will you dissolve all the idols?’.”

He further says that the DSP inquired whether he was affiliated to any political party, and on being told that he is a BJP functionary, he asked, “You think you are a bigshot if you are in some party?”. The DSP continued to speak in an insulting tone, hit him, and pushed him down. Murugan alleges that he was not even allowed to answer and refute his allegations. The DSP then called the Inspector and asked him to “file some case on him and get him on the van”. He also said, “I’ll file cases on you so that you and your business are finished in a year”.

At the end of the video, Murugan said that a few officers, like Nagashankar, were bringing disrepute to the whole department. He also said that he would just deliver the orders he already received and immerse the rest of the murtis and shut down his business due to harassment. He lamented that while claiming to support entrepreneurs, the DMK government is actually destroying people like him.

As his videos went viral on social media, BJP functionaries who noticed it extended their support to him. State Secretary SG Suryah tweeted that the party’s local unit was in contact with him and would assist him. Legal Wing functionary Asuvathaman tweets saying that he spoke to Murugan and assured legal help to face police harassment.

Vikatan, a Tamil media portal, spoke to Murugan to get to the bottom of the issue. As per its report, he said, “My family has been in the murti-making business for 40 years. We have been casting Vinayagar murtis for the past 20 years. We started it with five murtis and have expanded to make up to 600 murtis now. People come to us from as far as Thiruvananthapuram. We have never had any trouble all these years. But this year they are pressuring us a lot. They insist that we should cast murtis only if people ordering them bring the order allowing them to install them.”

“However, they grant permission to those who want to put up pandals at the last minute only. They sit outside the shop and allow customers inside only after inquiring them about their whereabouts, specifications of the murti, etc., which has frightened the customers. After exerting so much pressure, they came inside the shop and threatened us as well. We are honest people doing legal business.” 

“We were threatened and treated like ganja peddlers. I broke a 2 ft murti in their presence to show them. Yet, they threatened me that they wouldn’t allow me to do business. Not only did they hit me, they also insulted and spoke disrespectfully to my dad. He is in mental turmoil. I’m not going to sell murtis due to the police pressure. I have decided to immerse them on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi. After all this, they have also filed cases against me. I will bear everything for god. I hope justice will prevail”.

When the portal reached out to DSP Nagashankar for comments, he reportedly said that he went to inquire about Murugan based on complaints and that the latter disrupted him from performing his duty. He told Dinamalar, another Tamil media, that Murugan’s shop was raided as the SP’s office received complaints that he uses Plaster of Paris. He said that BJP members accused SP Samson of being biased as he is a Christian and denied the charge.

The incident isn’t surprising considering the open call made by DMK scion and Sports Minister Udayanidhi Stalin to “eradicate Sanatana Dharma” a few days ago. It should be kept in mind that there have been allegations of missionary-minded officers bringing parts of the police department under their control after DMK assumed power.

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