Why TN is forbidden land! — 11: Periyar, unplugged!

The writer T.R.Jawahar is Group Editor of Chennai-based News Today, Maalai Sudar and Talk Media publications.

Left, Right, Centre, Left of Centre, Far Right, Liberal, Conservative and several such sundry stuff: These ideological labels that litter the lexicon are a legacy of the Western academic mindset that believes in categorisation.

In my view, no person or party can really be sorted or slotted so simply because ideas and ideals are always in a state of flux and therefore keep their hosts also that way. Points of view can change with experience and stages in life. One can swing between all of the above in a short span or on different issues at the same time. ‘Right Liberal’ and ‘Left Conservative’ need not be oxymorons. Still, for convenience and in consonance with current discourse, the use of these terms, even if loosely, have to follow these set patterns.

So, in the Indian context, BJP is right, er, Right, while Communists have left, pardon, are Left and the Congress, left the Centre, I mean, Left of Centre. I said ‘loosely’ because if the original definitions in the original dictionaries are matched with the policies of these parties, one will see a lot of overlap. No matter, it is taken as a political fixture that the BJP is the direct, diametric opposite of the Left, with the Cong somewhere in Left’s Front … front.

But TN’s is a different tale, lacking in such semantic sophistry. Once upon a time these lofty sounding terms did ring in public space, but were soon lost in the din of Dravidian rhetoric. The advent of the Dravidian movement brought in its wake a new set of idioms that were totally strange to the practised phrases in politics. The old verbal order changeth as a confusing disorder cometh! A clueless, geriatric Congress was felled more by these slick slogans than through any worthy policy proposals. The Left was never a force here.

The credit (?) for re-writing the script goes to Periyar, who however shunned electoral politics. But his polemics as also that of DMK, the first-born Dravidian party, was openly and virulently anti-Hindu. Obviously, ‘secular’ Congress and Left would never have challenged the Dravidians on that count. I often wonder what would have been the scenario in TN had there then been a strong pro-Hindu Right wing party like the BJP, as there was ample space in the arena. After all, the Dravidian ‘theology’ is the antithesis of all that the Sangh Parivar and its political offspring stand for. More so in the context of the present whence TN is ploughing a lone furrow to nowhere.

All through the last 100 years, the State, pre and post-Independence, had tried and even succeeded on several counts, to go off tangent to the national current. The Justice Party of 1916 vintage sprayed the seeds for many such weeds to sprout all over TN. The party initially had a singular agenda of anti-Brahminism. It ruled the Madras Province intermittently between 1920 and 1937. It was on the verge of extinction but sprung to life when Hindi was made mandatory in Madras schools.

After the first anti-Hindi agitation ended in 1940, the Justice Party that spearheaded it came under the complete control of E.V Ramasamy Naicker a.k.a Periyar and became Dravidar Kazhagam in 1945. In desperate need of a fresh stockpile to maintain his relevance as also to keep his flock intact, he set about adding assorted ideologies to the Dravidian kitty. Self-respect, rationalism, social justice and atheism were the new missiles, though anti-Brahminism and anti-Hindi were always kept as reliable reserves. Difficult to make out Left, Right or Centre in this jigsaw jumble.

Individuals can be intelligent, but mobs are mindless. Imagination and wisdom spike and flourish in solitude but get stampeded  and trampled in the collective frenzy of a congregation. This is a historical and psychological truism. This phenomenon explains the success of magicians, charlatans and demagogues as well as some real leaders who have all held throngs in thrall. Periyar was by no means a great orator, but somehow his ideas infected a big, influential mass and earned him legions of admiring, loyal followers, who all though splintered, still lay claim to his legacy. Even Anna, who parted ways with him on a very ‘unseemly’ issue, still did not deny his political DNA.

So it was that Periyar’s self-serving, self-preserving brainwaves, though empty vessels, did raise a lot of noise. But pray, what was so unique about them? Even an ignoramus would baulk at a perceived slight cast at his self-respect. Will anyone admit to being irrational? Is not targetting one caste exclusively, also casteism? Can any outfit overtly endorse social injustice? Can atheism be a public program, that too ‘reserved’ only for Hindus and their Gods? But Periyar peddled and paraded all such piffle and perversions as special schemes and themes of his fictitious Dravidanadu, which again was a geographical nomenclature to camouflage his Kannadiga origins.

The Dravidian patriarch has been the subject of several books, studies and research papers, eulogical and critical. But poison is poison, whatever its colour and container. Apart from his pretensions as a crusader and the various pretexts for protest that he abused, his thoughts were toxic, mainly from a national perspective. The TN social and political soil and air remains polluted by his separatist soul which rests in all the pieces of his progeny. Every political party in TN owes its non-national act and activism to Periyar, long after he is gone. It is not because his original ideas are topping the charts in their pristine glory amidst his posthumous political pall-bearers. On the contrary, all Periyarisms have been gradually diluted, dispensed with in time and even destroyed.

The Justice Party had nothing to do with social justice. All its founders and key leaders were from two or three specific high-brow, well-heeled, upper castes and classes and wholly Hindu. In fact, many other castes – both lower and higher, Muslims and Christians, tribals and several other groups dumped the Justice Party and later DK, precisely for this reason. Ramasamy himself never voluntarily shed the Naicker tag, though he took to the Periyar plume with greater glee. In mid-sixties the DMK officially gave up secession and on coming to power, named Madras State Tamilnadu and not Dravidanadu. We have covered Hindi hatao hypocrisy in good detail already.

Atheism? Anna drove the first nail with his ‘One mankind, one Almighty’ slogan. Now, God Himself is personal witness to the droves of daily Dravidian devotees at His Temples’ doors. Today, iconoclast Periyar’s statues outnumber Pillayar idols in pious TN. Periyar prescribed slipper-strings for the elephant God, but he himself is decked up in garlands of flowers on birthdays and death days and glorified with all religious fervour. Rest of the year, it is care of crows. We have in the last few decades seen ‘self-respect’ sprawled as door-mats at the sacred feet of egoistic Her ‘I’nesses and His ‘My’nesses, residing on either side of Cathedral Road, Chennai. In these leaders’ self-obsessed minds, respecting their own self is self-respect. And I am yet to come across a rational Periyarite coming up with a rational definition for rationalism. Perhaps, it must have something to do with ration shops? No? Tasmac, maybe! After all, the most rational talk come from tipplers!

So, why resurrect Periyar, particularly when his celebrated causes have all become comic contradictions? World over and through ages, for great people, death is just a transit point between mortality and immortality. But Dravidian TN created a revolution by which leaders had greatness thrust upon themselves by a cultivated flattery fraternity. The take-away for the latter is the political gains that accrue by keeping such fossilised leaders alive in spirit. Reason why long dead Anna, MGR to the latest-to-pass, J & K will linger long. More are in waiting. They are all holy cows and their image can never be subject to slaughter. The evil that these men and women did in their prime will never surface and ever lie buried with their bones on the beach, under marble stones. And Periyar is the holiest of them all.

It may sound ludicrous and even a tad too charitable to connect and credit current events and aberrations to the long past Periyar. Some habits die hard, particularly when they are retained for political sustenance. The anti-Centre protest politics that Periyar heralded, for different reasons and with whatever results, still haunts the State. In his heydays Periyar, an ex-Congressman with scores to settle, even went to the extent of siding with the British and was dubbed their stooge as such. He took that as a compliment. He openly opposed freedom. Secession was his constant refrain till his demise in early seventies. The spectre still looms and if it were to gain momentum, this bearded oracle is bound to be the banner. The Late One will become the latest one in a jiffy because he is the only rallying point for both the fractured following as well as all the newfangled anti-Centre off-shoots sprouting all over TN.

Periyar’s posthumous presence does not augur auspiciously for a BJP on the Right path, claiming to correct all past wrongs. The ‘rationalist’ root is rotten and the fruits are even more so. Dalliances with his legatees, alternately, has already caused much damage to the BJP politically: How is it different from Cong’s penchant for piggy-back? Turning a blind eye consistently to the monumental corruption and misrule here over the years leaves a credibility gap wider than the fiscal deficit: Is TN exempt from the much touted ‘good and clean governance’?

I can go on. The writing on the wall is clear. BJP is the only party that enjoys the ideological conviction, absolute power and political necessity to challenge the rampaging Dravidians. As this is tantamount to daring the devil in its own domain with possible dire results, the project cannot be outsourced. Even reel stars mouthing frothy punch dialogues would clam up diplomatically in real time. So, for starters, sooner the Sangh co-borns distance themselves from Periyar parivar, better it is for TN and the nation. After all, his sinister shadow stalls and shackles every step that TN takes towards rest of India. Excising the current connections therefore is an essential exercise in exorcising the Dravidian Unholy Ghost, which is the core!

Tailpiece: Modi and Amit Shah must forthwith and frequently direct their ‘chariot’ at this critical land of J & K also, down under in every respect. Periyar’s Dravidanadu never materialised on the map, but is a mental reality proven by TN’s isolation. The trends here are not good for the country’s constitution and Constitution.

(The next article will be the final one in the series. I wanted to write a few more, but realised I had already covered those topics earlier, particularly pre-polls this year. I shall provide web-links in due course. Call that cutting a long series short.)

e-mail the writer at
[email protected]

Click here to read all articles:

All articles of ‘Why TN is forbidden land!’