As political parties in Tamil Nadu slammed the reported change in holiday for Pongal, BJP today alleged efforts were being made to made paint its government at the Centre as “anti-Tamil” by digging out an old order. The Centre’s notification reportedly converting compulsory holiday for the harvest festival of Pongal into a restricted one, has come under flak from various parties, including DMK, which has announced a protest tomorrow.
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BJP state unit President Tamilisai Sounderrajan slammed DMK for announcing the protest, saying Pongal has remained in the ‘Special List’ for 15 years, including the UPA days in which the Dravidian party was a key constituent.
While national holidays across the country referred to Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti, holidays for state-specific festivals such as Pongal were given as per local requirements, she said.
“Festivals such as Pongal and Makar Sankaranti are celebrated in different states on different dates. Some festivals like Onam are state specific. A common holiday for a single event across the country is given only for something like Republic Day,” she said.
Holidays for festivals like Pongal can be taken in states as and when they are celebrated and there is no common holiday for such events, she said, adding such holidays were, however, aimed at allowing people to celebrate the festivals.
However, since Pongal falls on Saturday (January 14) this year, there was no possibility of giving a holiday and central government employees have been allowed to avail this leave on a different date for a different festival, she said.
“However, the list of holidays (in question) had been released in June (last year) and some parties are trying to paint the Centre as working against Tamils by creating an illusion that the list was suddenly altered yesterday,” she said in a statement.
DMK “should realise that a similar list of holidays existed during” the UPA days also, Sounderrajan said.
Sounderrajan found support from BJP’s bitter critic PMK, whose youth wing leader Anbumani Ramadoss insisted that Pongal had never been on the compulsory holiday list.
“To my knowledge, for the last 15 years Pongal had never been on the compulsory list of holidays of the central government. It has been a restricted holiday only,” Ramadoss, a former Union Health Minister and sitting Lok Sabha MP, said.
He also insisted that only Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti have remained on the compulsory holidays list and said “somebody had carried wrong information”.
However, Pongal qualified to be included under compulsory holidays list as Buddha Poornima, Guru Nanak Jayanti and Mahaveer Jayanti, which are “celebrated only in some parts” of the country, were a part of it, he said.
Yesterday, AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala had expressed shock over the Centre’s reported move and sought a review of its decision.
Meanwhile, 16 activists of a fringe Tamil outfit were arrested at Coimbatore today when they tried to wave black flags at Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan over the issue.
Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam activists also raised slogans against the Centre, police said.