Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and Tamil Nadu Youth Welfare Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin's allegation that Sanatan Dharma is against social justice and it should hence be eradicated kicked off a political storm on Sunday.
Crying foul, the Bharatiya Janata Party targeted the opposition's Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as well over the issue besides Tamil Nadu's ruling party.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah accused INDIA bloc parties of 'insulting' Sanatan Dharma for vote bank and appeasement politics.
BJP president J P Nadda appealed to people to reject the opposition grouping, which is spreading 'hatred, poison and attacking the country's culture and tradition'.
The BJP alleged it is clear that 'a complete eradication' of Hindu dharma is the 'primary agenda' of the opposition alliance.
Describing the DMK leader's remarks as 'hate speech', the saffron party urged the Supreme Court to take appropriate action against him.
An unfazed Udhayanidhi, son of Chief Minister M K Stalin, said his is the voice of the oppressed people and he is prepared to confront challenges, be it in a court of law or the people's court.
Likening Sanatan Dharma to coronavirus, malaria, and fever caused by dengue virus and mosquitoes, Udhayanidhi said such things should not be opposed but destroyed.
His remarks led to a furore in social media with BJP's IT department in-charge Amit Malviya stating the DMK leader has called for 'genocide' of 80 per cent population who follow Sanatan Dharma.
Seeking to rubbish the genocidal claim, Udhayanidhi said it was false and he never called for genocide. His speech was a pointer to social evils, the DMK leader said.
In his address at a meet of Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association here on Saturday, Udhayanidhi said Sanatan is against equality and social justice.
Udhayanidhi said the very name Sanatan is from Sanskrit.
"What is the meaning of Sanatan? It is eternal, that is, it cannot be changed; no one could pose any question and that is the meaning." Sanatan divided people on the basis of caste, he alleged.
Terming Udhayanidhi Stalin's comments as hate speech, Malviya said while Congress leader Rahul Gandhi spoke of 'Mohabbat ki dukan', Congress's ally DMK's leader has sought eradication of Sanatan Dharma. The 'Mohabbat ki dukan' remark was made by Nadda and BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi as well to target Rahul Gandhi.
Malviya said on X: 'Congress's silence is support for this genocidal call I.N.D.I Alliance, true to its name, if given an opportunity, will annihilate the millennia old civilisation that is Bharat." Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai too slammed the DMK minister for his malicious ideology.
'Tamil Nadu is a land of spiritualism. The best you can do is to hold a mic in an event like this & rant out your frustration!'
BJP Tamil Nadu vice president Narayanan Thirupathy dubbed the DMK a 'cancer' and said such remarks from the ruling Dravidian party were nothing new.
Udhayanidhi further said on X: 'Sanatan Dharma is a principle that divides people in the name of caste and religion.'
Uprooting Sanatan Dharma is upholding humanity and human equality, the DMK leader claimed.
In Bhopal, Nadda, referring to Udhayanidhi's remark, said: "Throw away such an alliance which is against our Sanatan Dharma and is spreading poison. They want to abolish it (Sanatan Dharma). Eradicate them. Will the opposition alliance go to the people with the issue of finishing off Sanatan Dharma for the polls?"
In a strong reaction, in a public rally in poll-bound Rajasthan, top BJP leader Amit Shah said DMK leaders, including the Tamil Nadu chief minister's son, are saying that Sanatan Dharma should be abolished.
He also accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of calling Hindu organisations more dangerous than terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
"These people have talked about Sanatan Dharma for vote bank appeasement. They have insulted ('Sanatan Dharma')," he said.
"You compare Hindu organisations with Lashkar-e-Taiba. Your minister used to say that Hindu terror is going on. This INDIA alliance can go to any extent for vote bank and appeasement politics," the senior BJP leader alleged.
In Delhi, BJP national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the remarks made by the DMK leader have exposed the real character of the opposition alliance.
"The DMK leader's remarks within 48 hours after the 'ghamandia' alliance's meeting in Mumbai has exposed the real character of the 'dukandaar of mohabbat ki dukaan (owner of the shop of love)," Trivedi said in an apparent reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and INDIA grouping.
The BJP said it is clear that 'a complete eradication' of Hindu dharma is the 'primary agenda' of the opposition alliance.
Describing the DMK leader's remarks as 'hate speech', the BJP also urged the Supreme Court to take action against him in accordance with law.
Udhayanidhi said he stood firmly by every word he had spoken on behalf of the oppressed and marginalised people who suffer due to Sanatan Dharma.
"I am ready to present extensive writings of Periyar and Ambedkar, who conducted in-depth research on Sanatan Dharma and its negative impact on society in any forum."
"Let me reiterate the crucial aspect of my speech: I believe, like the spread of diseases like COVID-19, dengue, and malaria by mosquitoes, that Sanatan Dharma is responsible for many social evils. I am prepared to confront any challenges that come my way, whether in a court of law or the people's court. Stop spreading fake news."
Reactions in social media include one from a legal rights activist forum that said it would explore legal remedies against his remarks.
Udhayanidhi, in his address at the writers meet, said late chief minister and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi dealt a severe blow to Sanatan by establishing equality neighbourhoods (Samathuvapuram) and getting people belonging to all communities settled in a single place.
Udhayanidhi, who also holds the sports development portfolio, alleged that while Sanatan enslaved women and did not allow them to step out of their homes, they are today making achievements in sports and many women are also financially independent.
"What did Sanatan do to women? It pushed women, who lost their husbands, into fire (the erstwhile practice of Sati), it tonsured the heads of widows and made them wear white saris. Child marriages too happened."
"What did the Dravidam (the Dravidian ideology followed by DMK regime) do? It gave fare-free travel for women in buses, gave Rs 1,000 monthly assistance to girl students for their college education."
From September 15, women beneficiaries would be getting Rs 1,000 monthly assistance (basic income scheme).
"Let us take a vow to win in all the 39 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu and the one segment in Puducherry (in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls). Let Sanatan fall, Dravidam win," Udhayanidhi said.