TN’s KYC: Know your ‘culture’

The national TV media and even many here don’t know their TN. How can there be cutouts condemning the judge or warning Kannadigas, they ask in all incredulous ignorance. Many of us also share the indignation but swallow it thanks to experience, compulsion or habit. Still some light needs to be shed on what’s broadly called and covered under ‘TN political culture’.

The gross injustice to the lofty term ‘culture’ was rendered by Justice Party of early 1900s vintage. This party later morphed into Periyar’s Dravidar Kazhagam, the mother of many modern Kazhagams. The said culture’s foundational pillars were Self-respect, Dravidanadu, Rationalism as against religion, read Hinduism, and social justice. All these pillars have since crumbled but the edifice of Dravidian politics stands strong, held aloft by fresh ones like foul money, flattery, flowing liquor and freebies.

The so-called core ideals were always just pretences. But absolute power since ‘67 showed up the hollowness and hypocrisy behind the sugar-coated, quick-witted gift of the gab of the Dravidian demagogues. A subtle turn of phrase from their twisted tongue can make a blatant somersault seem a simple shift. For close to fifty years now, TN’s timeless traditions and of course, teeming treasury have been depleted with a disproportionate accretion to the fortunes and ‘fame’ of the Dravidian elite. The founding fathers, the Thandhai for one, must be turning in their graves, not in anguish but in sheer jealousy, at how their political progeny have smartly cashed in on their legacy.

Rationalism reels, as religion reigns; Idols of gods are outnumbered by statues of Periyar and sundry leaders (even living ones) all drawing rapturous crowds out to parade posthumous loyalty, and also constipated crows looking for a perch to pee. Self-respect is in permanent prostration pose and would dip further but for the earth coming in between; it received a further blow when the voters were made alm-seekers of their own tax money, but served as sops by a ‘benevolent’ leader. to it. Dravidanadu was silently shelved when the prospects of power in the State and a share in the Central pie brightened. Competitive quotas only heightened caste consciousness and led to clashes, exiling social justice, which has now sought sanctuary in Tasmac shops — the only place where all are equal, i.e., after two rounds.

TN is a pioneer in many ways. Language chauvinism raged here when Thackeray was just a bal. Separatist talk prevailed long before and after India was integrated. NTR took a leaf out of MGR’s script. Janaki MGR’s castle-coup preceded the cattle-shed-coup of Bihar’s Robbery, pardon, Rabri Devi by more than a decade.The Aryan invasion theory was a historical fraud but the Dravidian invasion of Delhi was enacted real time through shady coalitions. The mega scams that emanated from the fertile rational minds here set new records that only another D leader can break. Cong’s dynastic, crony politics was fine tuned and found fruition only here.

The prima donnas and their parivar pervade all walks of life in TN. From petty tea shops to prime TV channels, they straddle businesses, industries and associations. Bulk of private sector engineering and medical colleges are owned by either party biggies. Filmdom and media are their favourites wherein they play partners, protectors, patrons and often, predators and punishers. The ubiquitous black & red forms the backdrop for many a land grab, wineshop trade, loan sharking et al. With people-mandated power swinging like a pendulum only between them for decades, even the sensible and sensitive have lapsed into an existence of sinful silence and shameful surrender. The other option is to rise and be ready for retribution which could be a midnight arrest, a foisted case, a ganja plant, acid attack or at least, a few broken bones, not to speak of destroyed livelihood or lost honour. And a worse calamity is to not even register on the radar of an uncaring crowd.

The entire State, from secretariat to the streets, has long been infected by insatiable, virulent egos. The conditioning is deeply entrenched in the psyche because it has been driven down by the twin hammers of fear and reward. There is no need for any exhortation. Lulled by State doles, dulled into apathy by absence of choice and instead addicted to theatrics, the people are ever vulnerable to any emotional ignition. Not just a politician but even popular actors can or actually do, avail of this privilege.

Truth be told and the target is trouble. The idea is to shame and people have to be offended. But instead of burning buses or shunning food, they must set afire their senses, whet their appetite for clean governance and look for political freedom, not freebies. Just this October all the key players of TN politics face an existential crises. Behind all the rigged religious revelry and the recycled rational rhetoric lies a stark reality: All of them stand squarely in the dock on very severe charges or most scathing indictments.

So for now, people can stop worrying about what would befall individual leaders who can very well take care of themselves. It is time to delink their fate from that of the State. People must instead ponder over the future of self, near and dear and the nation.

That way, TN’s KYC will look, er, very cultured!

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Jawahar T R