ARAVAKURICHI: Stoking a controversy, actor and Makkal Needhi Maiyam founder Kamal Haasan has said free India's first "extremist was a Hindu" -- Nathuram Godse who killed Mahatma Gandhi.
Haasan's comments drew sharp reaction from the state BJP, which slammed him for indulging in "divisive politics".
Addressing an election campaign here on Sunday night, Haasan said he was one of those "proud Indians" who desires an India with equality and where the "three colours" in the tricolour, an obvious reference to different faiths, "remained intact."
"I am not saying this because this is a Muslim-dominated area, but I am saying this before a statue of Gandhi. Free India's first extremist was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse. There it (extremism, apparently) starts," he said.
Haasan said he was a "self-assumed great-grandson" of Gandhi and that he had come here "seeking answers for that murder," referring to Gandhi's assassination in 1948.
"Good Indians desire for equality and want the three colours in the tricolour to remain intact. I am a good Indian, will proudly proclaim that," he added.
BJP state President Tamilisai Soundararajan said while the whole nation was shocked when Gandhi was killed, none can, however, justify it, and pointed out that Godse was hanged for the "heinous" crime.
She said it was "strongly condemnable" that Haasan used the phrase "Hindu extremism" in a Muslim-dominated area.
"Though he talks of taking forward a new kind of politics, he also indulged in the old, mischievous, poisonous and divisive vote bank politics," Soundararajan said in a statement.
She said his remarks amounted to inciting "communal violence".
In an apparent reference to the deadly Easter bombings in Sri Lanka which left over 250 dead, she asked whether persons like Haasan were vocal in discussing the issue "despite being known that perpetrators were Muslims."
She said Haasan's remarks in a Muslim-dominated area were "mischievous and agenda-driven."
"Therefore such persons' campaigning should be banned. The police should take action since there is an effort to create tension," she said.
Taking a swipe at his earlier statement of leaving the country when his multi-million venture 'Vishwaroopam' faced release time issues from Muslim groups over the portrayal of the community, she said, "It is brazen acting that he is now talking about the country, Gandhi and patriotism."
Actor Vivek Oberoi slammed Haasan's remarks, saying both art and terror "have no religion" and asked if Godse's faith was mentioned to corner Muslim votes.
Oberoi, who played Narendra Modi in a biopic on the prime minister, said no one "should divide the country."
"Dear Kamal sir, you are a great artist. Just like art has no religion, terror has no religion either! You can say Godse was a terrorist, why would you specify Hindu ? Is it because you were in a Muslim dominated area looking for votes?," he said in a tweet.
"Please sir, from a much smaller artist to a great one, lets not divide this country, we are one Jai Hind..#AkhandBharat #UnDividedIndia," he added.
Earlier too, Haasan had triggered a row, when in November 2017, he took potshots at what he termed as "Hindu extremism," which drew condemnation from the BJP and Hindu outfits.
Aravakurichi is one of the four Assembly constituencies where bypolls are scheduled on May 19. MNM has fielded S Mohanraj from this segment.