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Periyarites arrested for protesting against the ‘janeu’ ritual

The TPDK activists were on their way to a pre-announced venue to put the sacred thread on pigs. The police arrested nine of them and seized their pigs

Media personnel turned up in good numbers to cover the protests against the janeu ritual

Tamil Nadu’s Thandai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam (TPDK) activists are a satisfied lot today. They have succeeded in garnering media and public attention for their previously announced programme of putting the ceremonial “poonool” or sacred thread on the pig, on the Aavani Avittam day of the Tamil month of Avadi. Every year, on this day, amid ceremonial rituals, Brahmin males change the thread that marks them out as Brahmin, known popularly as “janeu” in Hindi. This year, the day fell on 7 August.

The police seize the pigs from the TPDK activists

On 7 August, nine members of TPDK, namely Tamil Pithan, Jeevanandam, Balan, Chandran, Nagaraj, Kannadasan, Venkatesh, Selvam and Vikky were arrested as they approached the venue, near Anna Statue in Royapettai, just 50 metres from the Sanskrit College. They carried four pigs, and raised slogans against brahmanical practices and in support of their struggle. The policemen, who were present in large numbers, pounced on the activists and seized the pigs.

The men were remanded to custody, said Kovai Ramakrishnan, general secretary of TPDK. “We are not yet aware under what sections they stand accused. Our cadres are fully aware of the consequences and we expected the police to take them on remand,” he added.

The press release issued by the TPDK

The announcement of the event, made well in advance, had predictably raised hackles. Brahmin organizations condemned the “objectionable language” and “offensive visuals” in a poster released by the TPDK, which had a sketch of a fat, smiling pig wearing the thread, and a tagline announcing the event.

The arrested members of the TPDK in the police vehicle

“The pig is an avatar of Vishnu, the Varaha ,” explained a member of the TPDK, showing a picture of a modern-day sculpture on a temple gopuram with the Varaha avatar wearing the poonool. “We are not doing anything the Brahmins have not already done. There are hundreds of images on the internet of ancient monuments in which the Varaha avatar is shown wearing the thread.”

Why did they choose this mode of protest?

“The Brahmins hold this ceremony to show that only they have the right to wear this thread. Even though other castes, including some Shudra castes, do wear the thread, they are never included in the Avittam-day ceremonies. This is to show that only their thread has Vedic sanction”, he adds.

How the mainstream and social media covered the event

Brahmin outfits in Krishnagiri, Coimbatore, Tirupur and Erode districts held protests against the event.

“This is our biggest success,” says the TPDK spokesperson, before going to explain the brahmanical double standards. “There have been a number of issues on which a cross-section of Tamil society has come together to protest – Cauvery water, Koodankulam, the hydrocarbon issue, the farmer issue – but these people [Brahmins] have never ever come out as a community in solidarity on any of these issues. They can stay out of them as they are not affected, they are very safe, they never even face water shortages due to the privileges they enjoy. But now, since at issue is their identity and social standing they came out to the streets, and also demanded an end to the derogatory manner and ridicule with which Brahmins were depicted in films.”


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About The Author

Cynthia Stephen

Cynthia Stephen is an independent writer and development policy analyst with a focus on issues related to gender, poverty and exclusion

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