Shri Arjun Sampath: Unmuting Hindu Dharma voices and causes

A person’s name is  a self-fulfilling prophecy by which  a  person  manifests the qualities inherent in the name.  

As happened with Shri Arjun Sampath, 55, Hindu Dharma warrior, activist and founder, Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK). Also pronounced Indu Makkal Katchi (IMK),  the unapologetically  Hindu nationalist party based in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, is driven by a vision  and mission to highlight  the rights, interests, issues, concerns and needs  of Hindus in the sub-continent and Sri Lanka and reclaim their rightful space in the public domain,  which is currently a secular-liberal ecosystem. The organisation  stands up against radical Islamic political groups and opposes evangelisation and forced conversions by Christian missionaries and Islamic clerics. 

“My father  Shri Kantipan Arjunan was a follower of Shri  EV Ramasamy (1879-1973 popularly known as EVR or Periyar), founder of the Dravida Kazhagam socio-political movement in Tamil Nadu. He was also closely associated with Shri EVK Sampath, Periyar’s nephew, who was widely believed to succeed his uncle in the party. When I was born on April 20, 1965, Periyar named  me ‘Sampath’ because according to him, my father always followed Shri Sampath everywhere! As a young boy, I  accompanied  my father to several meetings addressed by Periyar and Shri K.  Kamaraj, who later was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.”  

Ironically, thirty years later, the namesake (Shri Arjun Sampath) emerged as  one of the most strident voices against Dravidian ideology (that he describes as anti-Hindu, partisan and subversive)  and the Hinduphobic ecosystem  in Tamil Nadu.  In his passionate  and often strident activism for Hindu Dharma causes,  Shri Arjun Sampath is  a heroic  warrior in the political landscape of contemporary Bharat.   According to Shri Sampath, in this Kurukshetra, Hindu Dharma values  are introjected and displaced by evangelical forces  through inculturation and proselytisation. 

Arjun Sampath grew up Pariyakavandanur village near Pollachi taluk, Coimbatore district.  Financial circumstances in the family compelled him to discontinue studies in 1982 after Class 12. He worked in a private firm as a sales representative and then  at his father’s salon. Meanwhile, Sampath also started the Little Flower Welfare centre in his village that provided after school support for children such as tuition, games, and organised various activities such as debates and competitions.  

The  early 1980s also saw the rise of Jihadist Islamic fundamentalism in Tamil Nadu, in  which Coimbatore emerged as a  hub. Shri Sampath was just 16 years old at the time of  the infamous Meenakshipuram conversions in 1981 in Meenakshipuram village in Tirunelveli district  in Tamil Nadu. In this mass conversion incident, thousands of dalit Hindus converted to Islam. 

“It made me realise the fragility of the Hindu identity and hence the importance of having  an organisation devoted exclusively to  nurture and promote Hindu dharma causes,” recalls Shri Sampath, who was then a member of the Sangh parivar.   

Over the next few years,  as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh  ( RSS) volunteer, he attended several RSS camps and soon organised RSS  camps in and around Coimbatore.  

“The patriotism and nationalistic fervour of the RSS impressed me. They were clearly more than just a political party,” recalls Shri Sampath.  

From the  mid-1980s to 1993, as a Sangh parivar member, Shri Sampath  was deeply involved in several pan-Bharat movements such as the Ram Janmabhoomi  issue, the movement to free Hindu temples from government control, and Ghar wapsi (the homecoming) – the  series of re-conversion activities facilitated by Hindu Dharma organisations such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), along with the Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK).

Since the first ghar wapsi organised by the HMK in Tamil Nadu in 2015, in which 18 dalits reconverted to Hindu Dharma from Christianity, HKM has reinitiated 8000 people from Christianity and Islam into the Hindu Dharma fold.  Shri Smapth also headed the Tamil Nadu  section of the Rashtriya Ekta yatra (National Integration rally) from Kanyakumari to Srinagar  from December 1991-January  1992. 

According to Shri Sampath,  the influence of the ‘Dravida’ ideology in Tamil Nadu before independence  did not permit space for religious fundamentalism in the state.  However, the rise  to power  of  the  Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1967, resulted in tectonic shifts in the political landscape of the state. 

It was  positioned as the party that in service of diversity and plurality, would accommodate the concerns of the minority community, as well as of the various marginalised castes that were its primary constituency. However, according  to Shri Sampath, Dravidian parties and their vote bank politics inaugurated an era of minority appeasement at the expense of Hindu Dharma that, unfortunately, has taken deep roots in the state. 

“Jihadi forces are growing rapidly in an uncontrolled manner in Tamil Nadu. These jihadi forces are also joining political circles and the main Dravidian parties have been helping them and encouraging them in the name of minority votes,” says Shri Sampath.  

In the early 1980s, Rama Gopalan founded Hindu Munnani, a socio-cultural organization to defend  Hindu Dharma and fight for Hindu rights. In the early 1990s, the Jayalalitha-led AIADMK government tilted towards Hindutva in reaction to the vote-bank politics of DMK. It began to back the Ganesh Chaturthi processions and Ram Jyothi Yatras organized by the Hindu Munnani in various cities in Tamil Nadu. 

During this time, Hindu Munnani leader Rama Gopalan inclined towards Jayalalitha. A section of the Hindu Munnani leadership differed with Rama Gopalan’s views on this. In 1993, they broke away under the leadership of S.V. Sridhar and formed the Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK or IMK).  

Currently, Shri Arjun Sampath is the president of the Hindu Makkal Katchi.  According to him, Tamil Nadu is a punya bhoomi, a sacred place sanctified by the Vedas, rishis  and the Shaivite and Vaishnavite Bhakti traditions. Inspired by the core principles of the Shiv Sena, Shri Sampath says that HKM espouses the causes of the people of Tamil Nadu while simultaneously preserving and retaining a strong connection to the idea of nationalism—“Jai Tamil Nadu; Jai Hindus! We believe in the idea of valiyamana bharatam (strong Bharat); valamana Tamil azhagam (growth-centric Tamil Nadu).” 

“Tamil Nadu has been suffering under the Dravidian rule for 50 years. Not only in India, HKM  has also spoke out for Sri Lankan Tamils. In Sri Lanka three-fourths of people are Sinhalese. In addition, nearly 15 percent  of the population are Tamil speaking people and they are mostly Hindus. Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka are Hindus. Do not treat the atrocities being committed on them as merely the persecution of Tamil speaking people, but pay attention to them as if Hindus in Sri Lanka are being persecuted. There these Tamil speaking Hindus are persecuted. Various atrocities are being committed on them. Hindu Makkal Katchi protested strongly  against these atrocities,” explains Shri Sampath.    

Shri Sampath is a strident Hindu voice in the cacophony of secular liberalism that has stilled and muted voices of Hindu Dharma. Never hesitant  to  court  controversy, the firebrand  grassroots activist nevertheless takes the bull by its horns in the gladiatorial political  arena in Tamil Nadu. 

Whether it is the movement to reclaim Hindu temples from government control, the attempt to denigrate  and  desecrate  symbols of Hindu dharma such as the  covering   of  the Bharat Mata statue  in Kanyakumari, the Santhome church built on the desecration of the original site of the Sri Kapaleeswarar temple in Chennai,  the Godman web series controversy on Zee TV  and pork being flung in front of  two temple in Coimbatore —Shri Sampath  connects the dots and points out to a larger jig saw puzzle pieces of Hinduphobia that is part of a grand Break Bharat narrative.   

Shri Arjun Sampath’s no-holds barred  activism  is not consequence-free. Since the mid-1980s, he has successfully managed to evade fatwas issued against him by Islamic fundamentalist organisations and  several  recent  attempts and plots to  murder him.  

“Hindu dharma values are being threatened by the forces of Christian and Islamic evangelisation. For example, Hindus are now a minority in Kanyakumari district, in which the district is administered not by the elected political party but by the local  parish and the bishop!  We Hindus lack social consciousness and an in-built sense of unity and solidarity.  Just look at the Christians and Muslims. Despite the several differences among themselves,  when it is a question of them versus the Hindus, they all come together as one! 

However, unlike them, unless something  affects us personally, we remain unconcerned. It’s time for every Hindu to reclaim and recreate a vibrant Hindu identity.  Besides, we have been inoculated for the past 200 years with the  mana noi (mental illness) of secular-liberalism. We need to develop a udvegam (impetus) to rise from  our pseudo secular mindset,” asserts Shri Sampath.  

Nevertheless,  he says that he does see encouraging signs of change and hope in people who belong to the Hindu Dharma. According to him, currently, Hindus are waking up Kumbhakarna-like from their prolonged slumber to take on adharmic forces and reclaim their dharmic space. 


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About the Author

Dr. Nandini Murali
Dr. Nandini Murali is a communications professional,  author and researcher in Indic Studies.  She is a Contributing Editor with the HinduPost. She loves to wander in the forests with her camera.