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On June 5th 2019, filmmaker Pa Ranjith participated and spoke in an event to commemorate the death anniversary of TM Mani - founder of the Blue Tigers organization at Thirupananthal in Thanjavur district. Since the event was taking place in the delta region and because T.M. Mani had fought for the land and others rights of Dalits in the region, Pa Ranjith spoke in particular about the significance of land rights for Dalits. His speech was critical of the oppressed groups misleading themselves through false claims of monarchical clan. He also criticised the commonly claimed monarchical clan of Raja Raja Chozhan’s rule and held it responsible for usurping the land rights of oppressed groups.

The arguments placed by Pa Ranjith aren’t particularly new. In fact, these arguments are based on the credible, well-researched findings of Tamil and Western historians. Brought into discourse by Left historians, this view has been widely accepted in the intellectual and political spheres. While there might have been both welcoming and disapproving voices to such perspectives, the freedom and liberty to place them have always existed.

While we have the liberty to celebrate the art and architectural developments of Raja Raja Chozhan’s period, it is important to extend the same liberty to question, debate and comment on the living conditions of common people during his rule or pay attention to less introspected details like the land rights of oppressed groups.

Even if it is not easy to accept a contrarian perspective, it is important to protect the freedom and liberty to express it. Our perspectives can be refined only through debates and discussions and not by stifling them. However, Pa Ranjith has been intimidated for merely expressing his point of view. Several communal and caste outfits have sent out warnings. Through social media and wall posters, threats to attack or kill him and prevent the release of his films have been made. Thirupananthal police station has suo-moto filed a case against him under two sections without any prima facie. While critical thinking is the primary foundation of any creation, the comments of the judiciary on the case has further saddened us.

We fear that this trend is not limited to suppressing Pa Ranjith’s freedom of expression, but might extend to the crackdown of freedom of expression at large. The communal, caste and ethnic groups always tend to attack the freedom to express. In Ranjith’s case, all these three forces have come together.
At this moment, we extend our complete solidarity to protect Pa Ranjith’s freedom of expression.