Amid a raging controversy over his remarks on a rally taken out by social reformer E V Ramasamy 'Periyar' decades ago, superstar Rajinikanth on Tuesday said he stood by his comments maintaining they were factual and refused to apologise as demanded by fringe Dravidian outfits.
Avoiding a direct confrontation with the actor, main opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, however, advised him caution while expressing views on the late leader even as the actor found support from senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy who offered to back him in courts if he wanted.
Days after Dravidian outfits condemned his remarks and demanded an apology for 'insulting' Periyar, the actor displayed clippings from magazines and newspapers in support of his claim that the idols of Lord Ram and Sita were taken out without dress and with a garland of sandals in a rally led by late Periyar in Salem in 1971.
"A controversy has emerged that I said something that did not happen. But I did not say anything that did not occur. I only said what I heard and things that appeared in magazines. Sorry, I will not express regret or apologise," he told reporters outside his Poes Garden residence in Chennai.
Further, he said, "I did not say anything out of imagination or something that was not there. Lakshmanan (then Jan Sangh and now BJP leader) who took part in a dharna (in 1971) has corroborated it."
On the 1971 rally -- in which idols of Hindu deities were allegedly taken out naked -- the actor said such things that happened in the past should not be raked up again and again.
"It was not an incident that can be denied but an incident that must be forgotten," he said.
Reacting, DMK president M K Stalin said Periyar had done 'yeoman service' to the people and considering it the actor should ponder before he expressed his views on him.
Also, he said Rajinikanth was not a politician but an actor. The Dravidian party chief said Periyar lived and tirelessly worked for the Tamil people all his life and this
aspect should be borne in mind by the actor.
Swamy tweeted: 'For a change I am on the side of Rajnikant on the E V R Naicker 1971 rally issue of parading Ram and Sita in a derogatory. This is a fact and Cho had published it in Thuglak. If the cine actor stays firm I will back him in courts if he wants.'
On January 14, taking part in an event held here by Tamil magazine Thuglak Rajinikanth alleged: "In 1971, at Salem, Periyar took out a rally in which the undressed images of Lord Sriramachandramoorthy and Sita -with a garland of sandal- featured ...."
Only Cho Ramaswamy published it in his Thuglak and made 'strong criticism', the 69-year old actor, expected to make his political foray ahead of Tamil Nadu assembly elections scheduled next year, had said while praising the late editor of the magazine.
Taking exception to the remarks, Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam accused the actor of uttering a blatant lie and demanded his unconditional apology and also filed police
complaints seeking action against him.
DVK president Kolathur Mani alleged the actor was being remote controlled by several people hinting at the right wing groups, adding a protest demonstration will be held on Wednesday against him Chennai.
In a related development, the DVK on Tuesday moved the Madras high court seeking a direction to the police to register a case against the actor.
DVK Secretary Umapathy in his petition submitted that he had lodged a complaint with police on January 18 but no first information report had been registered.
Another Dravidian outfit, Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, staged a 'Besige Rajinikanth's house', protest demonstration here against the actor on Tuesday.
Holding placards alleging the top actor had defamed Periyar, they demanded his unconditional apology.
The PDK cadres, who tried to proceed to his Poes Garden residence from the Anna flyover point were detained by police and later released.
PDK chief Covai Ramakrishnan, answering a question told reporters that if needed his organisation would pursue legal measures against the actor.
Besides, he said Rajinikanth can, however, be made to apologise through 'people's power'.
The actor, who did not utter a word for about a week, has now made a climb down by speaking on the issue, Ramakrishnan added.
In Coimbatore, 10 activists of Adhi Tamilar Peravai, a fringe outfit, were arrested when they attempted to burn an effigy of Rajanikanth protesting his remarks on the rally of Periyar.