The entrance to the Thanthai Periyar Unavagam restaurant which was allegedly ransacked by Hindutva workers. Photo: By arrangement.

By Kavitha Muralidharan / The Wire

Chennai: On September 13, 54-year-old Prabhakaran’s colleagues were getting ready for the inauguration of the ‘Thanthai Periyar Unavagam’ at Karamadai in Coimbatore, when a group of about 15 people barged in.

“The inauguration was scheduled for the next day – September 14 and I had just stepped out for some work. When my colleagues asked them who they were, they said they belonged to ‘Hindu Munnani’ and they wouldn’t allow an eatery in the name of Periyar. They called it an affront to the existence of their movement in the region and hurled vulgar abuses at our employees.”

Over the next 30 minutes, the group ransacked the place, allegedly assaulted Prabhakaran’s colleagues, and warned them of “consequences if they went ahead with the name.”

But Prabhakaran, a Periyar follower since the time he turned 20, refused to give in.

“How is it wrong to have an eatery named after Periyar when we still have Arya Bhavans and Iyengar bakeries? Five decades ago, we had Brahmanal cafes which served only Brahmins. When I decided to start an eatery, the only choice I had for the name was that of Thanthai Periyar,” he said.

For Prabhakaran, the name was representative of the cornerstones of Tamil Nadu today – “self-respect, women’s liberation, the annihilation of caste, social justice, and so on.”

The name also has personal significance for Prabhakaran. “My father studied up to the fifth standard, my grandfather was illiterate and so were his previous generations. But I have got MSc and BEd degrees and my son is studying journalism. Periyar, I believe, is the reason,” he says.

So Prabhakaran went ahead and filed a police complaint, despite threats and later, offers of compromise. “People from the same outfit which ransacked the place visited us again and said they will renovate the place for us and not go ahead with the threats. But I was not convinced,” he says.

Acting on the complaint, local police arrested six persons.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here