Will the real periyarites stand up

It is not uncommon in TN to find political heirs of a departed leader splitting hairs over the inheritance of his legacy. This unfortunate state has often been witness to several such unseemly incidents whilst even furneral processions were turned into political platforms for the protegies to make a bid for power.

Be it Anna or MGR, the power struggle happened in the immediate aftermath of their deaths as the void created by their exit was in the secretariat and the sooner it was filled the better it was for the inheritor.

But the long dead Periyar, who was never in harness to have died in it, appears to have left behind such a treasure trove of a legacy that even after almost thirty years of his demise, his fragmented political progeny are at each other’s throats, with every one claiming to be the sole torch bearer of his ideals and therefore his true successor.

One may wonder what was the sudden provocation for them all to exhume the dravidian patriarch’s weird ideas that found few takers even in his own time beyond the motely crowd of loud mouthed lackeys gathered at his feet. Really, his B’day fete is an annual affair celebrated with all the ritualistic fervour that normally marks our festivals, though Periyar himself, atleast outwardly, was dead against rituals– such contradictions are an integral part of dravidian hypocrisy.

But what has made this year’s event more momentous and even acrimonious is the fact that every one of the dravidian off-spring is faced with an identity crises wrought by the diktats of real politik and survival. Assuming that Periyar’s ideals are worthy of emulation, a presumption that deserves to be debated, the current crop of dravidian leaders are now merely reacting violently to the pricks of a guilty conscience for having dumped the late leader’s teachings into the garbage of history.

Though one may justifiably feel that that is where all that gibberish truly belonged even when they were first propounded by Periyar and that his heirs needed to be actually congratulated for doing the right thing by the country and society, it would be too much to expect them to openly acknowledge their inadvertant service. Hence the sudden escalation of voluble, vitriolic rhetoric at every for a that has been prompted both by pangs of remorse as well as political expediency.

But for a change, how right all of them are in regard to what they say about each other! How can one not agree with Karunanidhi when he questions the credentials of Jayalalitha as Periyar’s follower when she is really a Brahmin and an ardent believer in god who conducts frequent yagnas to ward of evil eyes that reside behind dark glasses and takes refuge in Kanchi mutt for solace?

But then is not Jayalalitha too bang on target when she claims that Karunanidhi has endangered secularism, by aligning with the BJP, a Hindu nationalist, communal and what not party that is the antithesis of all that Periyar allegedly stood for? But then K too has a point when he says that it was first J who allowed the BJP to make inroads into Periyar’s Tamilnadu and she was now complaining only because he had replaced her acolytes with his own reliable nephew in the Capital’s corridors of power.

But one can see J already on her feet in righteous indignation at the insinuation for did she not unhesitatingly pull down the BJP government with the help of just one secular vote, and then openly apologise for her folly in a public meeting thronged by fundamentally secular muslims, thereby making amends for the slight albeit temporary discomfort caused to Periyar’s cherished memory?

K for his part is understandably furious at the irrationality of J’s current patrons who are all now engaged in the pursuit of active secularism. How can they all join hands, quite literally at that, with corruption much in contradiction to their past utterings? To which J says but one word: Sarkaria!

It’s now K: Wither self-respect when the entire AIADMKparty has gone to sleep at J’s feet? To which J: Wither rationalism, when that bright yellow thing is wrapped round your neck? And so goes the mud-slinging party, very much a Periyar legacy too for in his hey days, the old man had generated a hell of a lot of muck and tarnished much reputations including a few heavenly ones in the foulest of tongues that one can muster. Of course, all that is now dravidian literature.

There are, to be sure, a few amusing side shows to the main encounter that is raging between the two contenders to Ft.St.George. Take for instance, the gem amongst the dravidian parivar, Veeramani, the direct, linear descendant by virtue of his having under his thumb the Periyar Trust, Periyar Thidal, Viduthalai and several other things.

After identifying the Paarppana J as the true embodiment of Periyar, he is now the most enthusiastic salesman of J’s virtues and his secretary had to often remind him to mention Periyar’s name during his speeches. Incidentally, one hears that the engineering college he had started -to enhance Periyar’s financial legacy-somewhere near Thanjavur with the help of a liberal grant during the previous AIADMK regime is doing reasonably well.

But while the olympian debate rages on who scored the Perfect 10 in the ‘Dump Periyaristics’, all is not lost. There is still a ray of hope for those angling to salvage Periyar’s legacy. One hears of a breakaway faction of the DK hidden somewhere in the crowd, led by a very self-respecting soul answering to the name Ambur Jagadeesan –…no? Is it then Alsoor? Wrong again? Angur, surely?

Yeah I got it, it’s Anoor — who were actually heard saying, a bit deliriouslly though, the very same things that Periyar once said, also deliriously. Will someone bother to locate them and hand over the mantle? Here is a tip: they were last spotted in the vicinity of Chennai IIT demanding reservations and the easing of brahmin domination in that hallowed premises. They are the guys to watch. No one has accused them of anything so far!

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Jawahar T R