The incident of a sitting AIADMK MLA allegedly grooming and later marrying a girl half his age has made reverberations across Tamil Nadu after the girl’s father, a temple priest, made an emotional appeal to get his daughter back and even attempted suicide. Prabhu, 38, the MLA of Kallakkurichi, a reserved constituency in Villupuram district, has married the 19-year-old daughter of the temple priest who for many years looked upon him as his own son, against the girl’s family’s wishes.
The girl’s father, Swaminathan, performing priestly duties in Malai Amman temple for years, took to social media when his daughter went missing and alleged that she had been kidnapped by the MLA. In a video, Swaminathan can be seen pleading to Prabhu to let his daughter go.
He says, “Vanakkam! I’m Swaminathan. I’m working as a temple priest in Thyagathurukam Malai Amman temple. My daughter studies in a private college in Turuchengode and is in her second year of B.A, English degree. Kallakkurichi MLA, Prabhu, has kidnapped my daughter by convincing her with flowery language. It’s very sad and depressing. He threatens me that he is an MLA, has both money and political power and that I cannot do anything about him if I try to approach the police or the district collector. He says he’ll murder me, will wipe out my family and will kill my daughter if I try to file a complaint even after this. My daughter is a little girl. He mesmerised her through flowery language. I request you to kindly rescue/retrieve her.”
He further says that he cannot file a complaint as he is alone and is receiving threats from various quarters for going against the MLA. While talking about the kind of people he receives threats from, he mentions the father of the MLA, Aiyyappa, who is also a local AIADMK functionary, and one Komuki Manian, district secretary of AMMK party who he alleges gave death threats. Thirunavalur cooperative society’s chairman Kumaravel is also alleged to have threatened to murder him and frightening him by saying that he has ‘men’. The poor priest says he is afraid to either live in his house or go to the temple.
After this video went viral in social media, some media outlets tried to reach Prabhu to get his version of events. Vikatan, a digital Tamil magazine reports that they spoke to Swaminathan on the evening of 4 October. He told their reporter, “Prabhu has been familiar to my family for the past 10 years. He acted like my son and even called both myself and my wife as Amma, Appa (mom, dad). On September 30th my daughter went to college but didn’t return home. On hearing that it was Prabhu who had taken her somewhere, convincing her by means of flowery words, I called him.”
“This is not right Prabhu. Send my daughter back,” I implored him. To this he replied, “I have been in love with your daughter for 10 years. I cannot send her back. You cannot file a case on me without the permission of the speaker as I’m an MLA. You do whatever you can”.
“I asked him to let me talk to my daughter but he didn’t let me. He says he has been in love with my daughter for 10 years which means when he was 28 years old my daughter was just 9 years old. I’m neither considering the caste nor am I against love. But can a 38 year old man marry a 19 year old girl? It’s ok if there is a 10 year difference. How can I accept a 20 year difference in the ages (of the bride and groom)? Moreover girls do not know to make a decision till they are 20 years old. Anyhow, I haven’t filed any complaint with the police. But someone named Senthil from the office of Superintendent of Police called me and collected details about myself and my daughter. What can I do when the situation is like this?” he lamented.
The Vikatan reporter called MLA Prabhu as well on the same night. He reportedly said, “He (the girl’s father) couldn’t have said that. No chance he could have talked like that. I spoke to him just now. Someone has given wrong information to you.”
On being asked whether he took the girl with him and whether she was with him then, he appears to have evaded answering directly by saying he’ll call back. The next morning the photos of Prabhu marrying the girl were all over the internet. Vikatan reports Swaminathan calling them and telling, “Even yesterday, the MLA’s dad Aiyyappa said that he doesn’t know the whereabouts of my daughter. But today, he can be seen conducting the marriage. I cannot take this treachery. I’m going to self immolate in front of their house”.
Swaminathan did try to self immolate in front of the local police station as the police wouldn’t accept his complaint. While Swaminathan took to the courts and filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the Chennai High Court to get his daughter back, Prabhu has released a video with his new wife and has been giving sound-bites to news channels.
In the video, Prabhu dismisses the claims that he kidnapped Soundarya and threatened her father as ‘rumours’. He claims that they have been in love for the past four months and that the girl’s family rejected the proposal when he approached them through proper channels which made him marry her with the support of his parents. The girl repeats the same and says that she decided to leave the house and marry Prabhu on her own as her parents didn’t approve of her relationship.
In 2017, the MLA’s father was alleged to have kidnapped a married woman, Nandini. Her husband Shankar, a labourer, had to rap the door of the courts to get a complaint filed against him. Shankar told the media that the MLA’s father Aiyyapa warned him to not blow up the issue and promised to spend five lakhs for his second marriage. MLA Prabhu and his men also are alleged to have threatened Shankar and his family.
Shankar had expressed his fear that his wife might have been murdered. At that time Aiyyapa denied these allegations and told the media that he doesn’t even know Shankar and hasn’t ever set his eyes on Nandini. However, Prabhu’s version contradicted his father’s as he said that Nandini left Shankar to live with someone else and that his dad advised Shankar to marry some other woman as Nandini didn’t seem to like him.
Coming back to the current case, a complaint has been lodged against Swaminathan for attempting suicide. The issue has created a furore in Tamil Nadu with many supporting the ‘love marriage’ and some expressing empathy towards the father. Observers of TN politics also pointed at the example set by the founder of the Dravidian movement, E.V. Ramasamy Naicker (aka ‘Periyar’) who in his 70s married his personal assistant Maniammai, at least 40 years his junior.
Many left-liberals were seen celebrating the marriage as a symbol of ‘social justice’ and ‘progressivism’ due to the groom being Dalit and the bride Brahmin, overlooking the possibility of a minor being groomed for years by a much older man and the serious allegations levelled by the father. Some like Rajyasree Sen (aka @brownsahiba on twitter), Communications Head for Hyatt India Consultancy and a columnist with Economic Times and Newslaundry, wished (tweet archived here) the father would die, branding him a ‘bigot.’
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