Rajinikanth, one of India's biggest film stars, has faced protests over a controversial remark about Periyar EV Ramaswamy, an anti-caste icon known for his work among unprivileged caste Hindus in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Periyar, born in 1879, is considered the father of the Dravidian Movement, which called for social reforms to end privileged caste domination of Hinduism, thereby opening the door for the socially disadvantaged sections of the society.
Even in the early 20th century, Periyar was a controversial figure and was frequently attacked for his positions such as campaigns against idols, the entry of Dalits to temples, and a movement against the imposition of Hindi language largely spoken in the north.
Last week, Rajinikanth, 69, said a "portrait of Hindu Gods - Rama and Sita - was paraded naked and garlanded with slippers" at a 1971 rally organised by Periyar.
The Dravidian parties and scholars have contested the accuracy of the event and accused the film star of indulging in a "blatant lie" to gain political mileage. But Rajinikanth insists the incident was reported by Tamil weekly magazine, Tughlak.
According to The Hindu, an English-language newspaper published from the state capital Chennai, in its 1971 report, the rally taken out by Periyar did have obscene images of some of the Hindu Gods but Rama and Sita were not paraded naked.
Kolathur Mani, the founder of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), a local political party, said Rajinikanth was pressured to speak "half-truths".
"I suspect this pressure is coming from the right-wing or BJP. They must have written the script for him," he told Al Jazeera. "We don't understand why he should lie so blatantly."
"Who is Rajinikanth," asked Manuraj Shunmugasundaram, a spokesman for Tamil Nadu's main opposition party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). "Just having ambitions doesn't make [Rajinikanth] a politician." Source: Al Jazeera