Politicians in Tamil Nadu objected to the placing of holy books at Kalam’s recently opened memorial near his statue, placed as the centre-piece of the memorial at Rameswaram. Prime Minister Modi had inaugurated the memorial and unveiled the statue on Wednesday on Kalam’s second death anniversary.
Political leaders DMK’s M.K. Stalin, MDMK’s Vaiko and CPI’s Mutharasan objected to the importance given to Gita alleging that it was another way of indirectly imposing Hindutva through the memorial. “Is Bhagavad Gita the national text of India?” asked Vaiko. Seeman of Naam Thamizhar Katchi wondered why the statue was made in saffron colour and the veena - associated with Hindu goddess Saraswathi – was chosen.
One reason given by A.P. Shreedhar, the man who had created the bronze statue that depicted Kalam playing the veena, was that the former president used to quote very often from the Gita. Hence he had placed a bronze tablet with Bhagavad Gita carved on them next to the statue. He also recalled that that Kalam used to love the Veena and often played the instrument at his residence. “There are many photographs showing him standing next to his Veena,” he pointed out.
On Sunday as the footfalls at the memorial increased and the controversy over the Gita was aired by local TV channels, Kalam’s grandson Salim placed a copy of the Bible and Quran next to the Gita. Not to be outdone the Hindu Makkal Katchi, a fringe outfit, objected to this and soon these two books were removed and placed in a glass case in the memorial. “They were shifted to the glass case only for protecting them from the elements since it is quite windy here,” explained Salim.
But members of the HMK nevertheless filed a police complaint against Salim for placing extraneous items at the memorial. Union Minister of State Pon. Radhakrishnan regretted that politicians were making Kalam as a subject of politics. “Kalam should be above such cheap politics and there was no hidden agenda in keeping the Gita there,” Radhakrishnan pointed out.