Several social media users, including verified Twitter handles, are sharing a video, where Tamil Nadu’s DMK MP TR Baalu is addressing a political rally, purportedly boasting that he has demolished 100-year-old temples.
“I have demolished 100-year-old temples, namely Saraswati Temple, Lakshmi Temple and Parvati Temple, that stood on GST road in my constituency. I know I don’t get votes, but I know how to get votes. Votes will not come. Please don’t demolish it, all my friends told me,” said Baalu in the video, which has English subtitles of the former Union minister’s speech in Tamil. Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai shared the video clip, criticising Baalu for “taking pride” in demolishing temples.
The archived versions of the tweets can be seen here, here, here and here.
Newschecker first ran a relevant keyword search, which led us to a two-hour Youtube video, live streamed by News 18 Tamil Nadu on January 27, 2023, titled “Conference to urge implementation of Sethu Samudra Canal Project”. The video featured a longer version of Baalu’s speech seen in the viral video at 49 minutes and 53 seconds.
“I have demolished a 100-year-old temple for a four-lane road, and I have demolished a 100-year-old mosque in West Bengal. I have demolished temples, mosques and temples…They had three temples in my constituency, Saraswati temple, Lakshmi temple and Parvati temple, in my town. If you look at GST Street, they have built all the three temples. I destroyed those three temples. I know I don’t get votes, but I know how to get votes…I told them that I will build temples with a hall that can seat 100 people, demolished the temples and built the temples again as said…,” Baalu can be heard saying in Tamil, indicating that the viral video was clipped.
We then came across this Indian Express news report, dated January 31, 2023, titled “TN BJP chief Annamalai shares edited clip of DMK MP Baalu’s remarks on ‘temple demolition’, draws flak”. According to the report, K Annamalai, chief of the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP, shared an edited clip of Baalu’s speech at an event in Madurai and alleged that DMK members take pride in demolishing 100-year-old Hindu temples. The article stated many DMK supporters on social media noted that the clip was edited and shared a longer version of the speech made by Baalu in support of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.
“In the longer version of the video, Baalu is heard saying that he had demolished the temple during the construction of a four-lane road. The MP noted that he told his supporters that he had no other option and that he convinced the people and carried out the demolition activity, besides building another bigger temple that allows at least 100-200 people to have meals on its premises,” the article read, adding that the DMK MP also recalled the time he served as the Union minister and how his department had to demolish places of worship like mosques, churches for several development projects. Similar articles were done by news outlets like TOI, The Print, confirming that Baalu’s speech on how he convinced various leaders to demolish certain religious structures for government projects was clipped and shared out of context.
What is the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project?
According to The Print, Baalu made the alleged remarks, while criticising the BJP-led government for halting the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project, during an event organised in Madurai. A grand waterway project straddling India and Sri Lanka, the Sethusamudram project proposes to connect the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar. Commissioned in 2005, the project came to a halt in light of protests by right-wing groups claiming that the project may harm the ‘Ram Setu’ bridge, which is believed to have been built by Lord Ram to reach Sri Lanka.
An edited video of DMK leader TR Baalu’s speech on how religious structures were razed for the government’s developmental projects has been shared out of context on social media.
Result: Missing Context
Youtube video, News18 Tamil Nadu, January 27, 2023
Indian Express report, January 31, 2023
(This fact-check was originally done for Newschecker Tamil by Ramkumar Kaliamurthy)
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