Chennai: Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and ministers of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have launched a vicious attack on Tamil film actor, Surya, for speaking out against the draft National Educational Policy (NEP). The actor was speaking in a function organised by Agaram Foundation, founded by him, to support economically and socially weak students to go in for higher education in Chennai.
Strengthen Public Education
The actor lashed out at certain recommendations of the draft NEP, including the proposal for semester exams at different levels in schools, entrance examinations for different graduate and post- graduate courses and closing down of schools with a single teacher. He also called upon all stakeholders not to remain silent and protest against the NEP.
“How can students who don’t even have teachers in government schools clear the entrance exams? The government should ensure the availability of teachers and necessary infrastructure in schools to promote and protect public education. Rural students, who amount to around 60%, do not have access to proper education and the policy has no focus on this”, the actor said. He also questioned the logic of imposing three different languages on children at a very young age.
The actor also accused the Union government of denying medical education to rural and government school students by imposing the National Eligibility cum Entrance Exam (NEET) in Tamil Nadu. He alleged that the proposal to conduct entrance examinations would only help the mushrooming of coaching centres which earn large profits.
Tamil Nadu has been opposing the NEP and Students Federation of India (SFI) has also demonstrated by burning the draft NEP across the state as part of its all-India protest.
BJP, AIADMK Leaders Condemn anti-NEP Comments
Launching a tirade against Surya, BJP national secretary H Raja accused the actor of trying to disturb peace by instigating violence by urging people not to remain quiet against the NEP. The Hindu reported that Raja, while addressing a public meeting, asked, “While speaking about the draft, Surya has said that ‘if we keep quiet’ NEP will be implemented. Can he speak like that? Doesn’t that mean that he wants to disturb peace”? BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan brushed aside Surya’s comments stating that these had been made without any knowledge of the NEP.
TN information minister Kadambur Raju termed the actor’s comments as ‘half-baked’ and refused to respond.
When contacted by NewsClick, the office of actor Surya refused to comment on the remarks made by BJP and AIADMK leaders.
CPI(M), MNM Extend Support
Meanwhile, political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] and actor Kamal Haasan led Makkal Neethi Maiam came out in support of the actor. A CPI (M) statement said the attitude of the government in suppressing opinions cannot be accepted and the party stood by actor Surya on the issue.
Kamal Haasan tweeted his party’s statement supporting the actor with the caption “Brother Surya has my support”. The statement also said that the draft had been released to get the opinion of the public and the representatives of the government were criticising the actor for voicing his opinion, which cannot be accepted.
The actors’ fans, too, started an online campaign against BJP and AIADMK leaders for threatening him.
‘Intolerance’ of BJP Leaders
The ‘intolerance’ of BJP leaders is known against those raise thier opinion against the government, and the party state leadership is no exception to this attitude. In 2017, actor Vijay’s film ‘Mersal’ faced stiff opposition from BJP leaders for making references to the Goods and Sales Tax and Digital India. The state BJP president went on to demand the removal of some scenes from the film.
H Raja went on to address the actor with his given name of Joseph Vijay and claimed that the actor is criticising the BJP government since the actor followed Christianity and wanted to provoke Hindus. The leader went on to release the actors’ voter identity card to claim that the actor follows Christianity. However, the film went on to become a box office hit despite BJP’s negative campaign.
Films, including Sarkar, Joker, Irumbuthirai, Kaala, have all been opposed by BJP for one reason or the other.
Tamil Nadu Politics and the Film Industry
The Tamil film industry has had a strong bond with the state’s politics since the past several decades. Former chief ministers C N Annadurai, M Karunanidhi, M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa were all associated with the industry. Actor Rajinikanth has been speaking about venturing into politics since 1996, while actor Kamal Haasan has forayed into politics and director Seeman has his own outfit named Naam Tamilar Katchi. Both the ruling AIADMK and DMK have a galaxy of film stars in their fold, with a few of them going on to become peoples’ representatives.
Even though actor Surya has not shown any interest in joining politics so far, the BJP and their fellow outfits seem to be providing him free promotion and publicity.