In a relief for Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan, the Madras High Court today granted the actor-turned politician protection from arrest after cases were filed against him over his remarks on Nathuram Godse.
Kamal Haasan, during his campaign in Tamil Nadu's Aravakurichi about a week ago, had said that "India's first extremist was a Hindu". He was referring to Nathuram Godse who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1947. Bypolls in Aravakurichi and three other assembly seats were held on Sunday.
The state government, opposing the protection of arrest to the actor-politician, said 76 complaints have been received against him.
At least two police complaints were filed against Kamal Haasan and he was accused of "promoting enmity between different groups".
The Godse remark also prompted sharp reactions from political parties. The BJP and the ruling AIADMK said he was trying to "incite communal hatred in a Muslim-dominant area".
Tamil Nadu Minister KT Rajenthra Bhalaji, reacting to the comment, had said that Kamal Haasan's "tongue should be cut off". "Extremism has no religion, neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian," he had said. The MNM, however, demanded that he should be sacked for such a comment.
The Election Commission also denied permission to Kamal Haasan for campaigning in Sulur after Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan, the state BJP chief, complained to the election body.
Kamal Haasan, however, denied the allegations and claimed that his speech was "misquoted with malafide intent". He told the high court his comments on Nathuram Godse are a "historic fact". He also said that in his seven-minute long speech, he had only attempted to explain that "extremists are in all religions" and that he was focusing on the need of "religious co-existence".
Amid controversy over his remarks, slippers were thrown at Mr Haasan last week when he was campaigning in Madurai and Aravakurichi for Tamil Nadu bypolls. The state police named a dozen people in the slipper attack, mostly BJP workers. Reacting to the attack, Mr Haasan had said: "Arrest of BJP workers point to perpetrators behind, their philosophy and direction".
In a Tamil poem, he has also claimed the term "Hindu" was given by foreign rulers. "We were named 'Hindu' either by Mughals or those who ruled earlier. British seconded that adjective. When we have our own identities, how ignorant are we to embrace a name given by an outsider as our name or religion," he said in the poem.
Kamal Haasan's MNM is contesting elections for the first time this year.