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Tamil Nadu’s DMK sparks controversy by using food as attack weapon

The latest issue is about the statement by the state’s Higher Education Minister, K Ponmudy, that people who speak Hindi are the ones selling ‘pani puri’.

Representative image. AFP

From beef biryani to shawarma and pani puri, the “gastronomic” policy of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam does not seem to have ceased.

In less than a week, Tamil Nadu’s ruling party has sparked controversy after controversy, using food as a weapon of attack.

The latest issue is the statement by the state’s higher education minister, K Ponmudy, that people who speak Hindi are the ones selling ‘pani puri’.

At a graduation ceremony held at Coimbatore-based Bharathiar University, the Minister spoke about the benefits of the National Education Policy and DMK’s position on a bilingual approach.

Taking the opportunity to target Hindi as a language, the minister joked, “It has been said that if you learn Hindi, you will be able to get jobs. If so, who are the pani puri vendors in Coimbatore?”

The DMK was quick to defend its minister’s remark, saying there was nothing wrong with it and adding that many Tamils ​​had learned a few Hindi words like ‘khatta, meetha, bhaiya’ from these vendors. of pani puri.

The statement clearly had derisive undertones, but the party countered it with statements saying it shouldn’t be seen as an “insult”.

“The Minister was making it clear that in Tamil Nadu Hindi speaking people were selling pani puri which is not an indigenous food in the state. Look at migration data; people from northern India are the ones who come to the south to find work,” DMK spokesman, lawyer Saravanan Annadurai, told News18.

“Selling pani puri is honorable work, just like selling tea and pakoras. We don’t hate pani puri walas. We love them and their pani puris. We rather affectionately call them “bhaiya” (brother). Let’s walk through Chennai and talk to vendors and find out what language they speak,” Annadurai challenged.

Chennai-based political analyst Sumanth C Raman finds these politicians’ statements “theatrical”.

“It shows how low they would stoop to divert people’s attention from pressing issues. This is exactly what the BJP is doing in Delhi where it is trying to rake in communal issues. The DMK here deals with language, food or the north-south division. Basically, they have to create a diversion, otherwise they will also be asked about LPG subsidies, why the increase in land rates, etc. Isn’t it better to ask whether to eat beef or not? Or is shawarma our native food? This is a carbon copy of the BJP, minus the lynching,” Raman said.

Minister Ponmudy’s statement came just days after another DMK minister, Ma. Subramanian asked people to avoid another “non-native” food – the Lebanese dish shawarma – calling it “Western food”. Shawarma is made of meat and flatbread and is extremely popular in India.

Subramanian has been roasted on social media for claiming that shawarma is a dish suitable for Western countries with cold climates.

“Shawarma was not a food native to India and was best suited to be eaten in countries where climatic temperatures go down to minus degrees. If kept or sold outdoors, it remains fresh without refrigeration,” the minister said.

The statement came after a young girl from Kasaragod in Kerala died after consuming shawarma and 58 other people fell ill. Investigations by the Kerala health department revealed that food samples taken from the restaurant contained traces of pathogenic salmonella and shigella, leading to medical complications.

Amid this, the sudden cancellation of the high-profile Ambur Biryani Thiruvizha had added to the already simmering food politics in the state. On Thursday evening, in an abrupt change of schedule, the Tirupattur district administration announced it was postponing the biryani festival for three days, citing “a heavy rain forecast”.

For the uninitiated, the Ambur region of Tamil Nadu is famous for its tasty biryani made with a special type of rice called Seeraga Samba, a dish the state government was hoping to set up for a hint label. geographic (GI).

The biryani festival, which was to be held from May 13, was seen as an event that would bond people with biryani and taste. Tirupattur District Collector Amar Kushwaha in a media interaction said the event should be documented just like the famous Spanish Tomato Festival or Rajasthan’s Pushkar Festival.

The issue arose when the district administration asked some 50 stall owners to exclude beef and pork, a move that sparked irritation. Kushwaha defended the move, saying serving both types of meat would offend the sentiments of the Hindu and Muslim communities. Riding on the already brewing protests, DMK ruling ally Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and right-wing group Hindu Munnani opposed the event.

Interestingly, the biryani festival was widely publicized using images of the current Chief Minister MK Stalin and his late father, Dr. M Karunanidhi.

So the question is how different would these veiled attacks be from those that many South Indians hate – for example, being called a Madrasi or an Idli-Dosa Bhai?

When food becomes a political weapon, it creates a putrid atmosphere and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

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