The writer T.R.Jawahar is Group Editor of Chennai-based News Today, Maalai Sudar and Talk Media publications.
In the very first article I had made it clear that the isolation of the State, as most recently reflected in it bucking the national poll trend, is both imposed and self-inflicted. In my view the island at the south east bottom of India is not Sri Lanka, but Tamilnadu.
So far, in this series, I have set forth some Northern constructs that have willy-nilly played a role in TN’s stand-alone status. I have also given an account of how this neglect has been compounded by the self-destructive ways of the political process here. However, I must hasten to add that it is only the common people of the State who are marooned in this desolate island of isolation. The smart politicos, past, present and prospective, along with their kith, kin and skin, have managed to build and maintain profitable bridges with mainland India: Call it Dravidian sethu.
My quest was to understand why TN remains apart, a theme I have visited and revisited several times, in idle introspection and active writing. Frankly, even the current exercise has only thrown up more questions than answers. TN is a veritable Pandora’s box of paradoxes. Having unsuspectingly and in all ‘intellectual’ eagerness opened it, I am now baffled by the contradictions that have sprung up to shake my own so-called convictions. I have written this series from my experience and presented opinions from my points of view. Still, I stand both chastened and educated by the engaging and enlightening feedback of readers.
I am a Tamilian by birth and upbringing. I have lived all my life here and I know no other land or language. My mother Nadu (Tamilnadu) deserves the best. The pride about its past and the optimism about its potential is the main motivation for me to embark on this verbal journey, a journey that has brought in its wake discoveries and disappointments. But call it stereotype conclusion or genuine analysis, it is past perfect and present tense, if you get it.
As current researches indicate, Thamizhagam could well be the oldest civilisation with an unfathomable antiquity, but alas, washed away and buried in deep oceans by frequent tsunamis and floods. Recent archaeological excavations present a narrow keyhole view to a colourful kaleidoscope of a culture that thrived much ahead of any other much touted ones like Greek, Arabic, etc. Again, Tamil tops the charts as the most ancient lingo on all scientific counts, validating the adage here, that ‘Tamil predates sand and stone’.
The history of this land and its Kings is one of seafaring adventurers and supreme conquerors who all had Tamil culture and language as flagships. They not only held absolute sway over the southern hemisphere, but went far north and west too. Epigraphical and anthropological evidences abound to show that it was actually a Dravidian invasion or at the least, influence, that prevailed there, as for example, the Indus Valley. So how did all this hallowed hoary heritage get hidden?
The credit, or rather criticism for this must first go to the British. In their simplistic and stupid approach to understand India, they identified the geography, history and culture of north India and its ancient tongue Sanskrit as representation of whole of India. Tamil and south never figured in their scheme of things. As we have seen extensively, the north Indians fully exploited this advantage of being placed ahead in the race, as the prime Bharatiya Race, a haughty hangover that haunts us, the lowly Madarasis, till date. The disconnect is now deep. It is no coincidence that the Tamilians here feel a natural affinity with their diaspora in Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka etc., than with distant Delhi. This has often been exploited by Tamil chauvinists and champions for political gains.
But what is the fate of such a State now? As a personal and professional witness and observer to the happenings here in the last several decades of Dravidian dominance, my heart bleeds, eyes well up in tears and the arms automatically arch up towards the Almighty. This could be true of many parts of India one may say. But then, while north India despite its diversity has been fused into one contiguous history and fixed together by choice or force by Hindi, Tamilnadu still boasts of a parallel heritage.
However, TN’s uniqueness today is for all the wrong reasons. Where once Cauvery and Vaigai flowed, liquor floods, making this TASMAC Nadu. The State has the rare honour of being a direct, sole retail seller and depends wholly on wine shop revenue, even for ‘welfare’ projects, ironically. It has reached such a state of addiction that even a proposal of prohibition would make it totter like a tippler.
Tamilnadu, from time immemorial, has produced some of the greatest cultural and literary icons. All of them held aloft the glory of this land through their everlasting and evergreen works. Alas, today’s Tamilnadu is not defined by Thirumoolar, Thiruvalluvar, Kambar and Bharathi. Reel is real here, super heroes are supreme. Their punch dialogues become public policy in this great multiplex of multiple absurdities called Tinsel Nadu. Actors, script writers deem it their natural right to dab in politics and the gullible star-struck masses are besotted beyond salvage. The celluloid conquest is complete. Once again, no other State in India can hold a flashlight to TN’s political theatre.
There is much talk of Article 370, J&K and separatism today. But three decades before freedom, this land of J & K was a pioneer of secessionism. Jinnah’s two nation theory was a belated bachcha of the Justice Party that was born in Madras Presidency. Periyar’s Dravida Nadu was a running theme pre and post-Independence, and these poisonous seeds still lie buried in all potency in TN’s fertile soil. Sedition is a common charge that links politicos of Kashmir and Kanyakumari alike. Listen to this nuanced distinction made recently by one such politico, as proof of the pudding: ‘We are Indian citizens, but our nationality is Tamil’. Do I have to say more?
But Periyar’s most lasting damage is the legacy of protest politics that he unleashed. In his narrow world view, the purpose of protest is secondary or even irrelevant: The point is solely to score, well, brownie points. All his anti-something propaganda follows this pattern. Small wonder that with his political progeny protests are more out of habit than for any honest or honourable agenda. These stalwarts of Troublesome Nadu revel in stalling. Right from a Chief Minister to a common man, it’s only here that we can see resolutions in Assembly and roadside rokos being proudly paraded to scuttle genuinely beneficial schemes and projects. The State has now reached a situation where no Central proposal can be implemented, nor can any private investment be envisaged. In fact, some entrepreneurs quit the State complaining openly in press conferences that they were pressed for big bribes. The people for their part are often easily beguiled into falling prey to the political posturings supposedly for their benefit.
The Left has long been left out here. The Congress is a pathetic piggyback rider. BJP is the only party in the national reckoning but has nil presence here. But, as ruler of India which includes Tamilnadu, the party and its government can ill-afford to ignore this benighted State. All its pet themes like good governance, clean politics, national security and the Sangh’s ideologies face a direct challenge and distinct acid test in Tamilnadu. But unfortunately, the BJP has missed and messed up every chance that came its way to make a mark here.
The party of Hindutva has been rejected by the devout Tamil Hindu people who strangely find no issues with voting for prolific Hindu haters. TN would rank as the most corrupt State in the country, with politicos hailing from here across parties being the fountainhead of the biggest scams in recent times. But clean BJP refused to even pick up the gauntlet, ‘this lady or that Modi’ thrown by an A1. Instead, it allied with the inheritors of that very A1 after raiding their dens no end. For the first time in India’s history, the State Secretariat and even its tables, under and above, were searched. The cash plus Tamilnadu with sacksfull stashed away is a spoof on the country’s cashless milieu campaign. An unparalleled parallel economy, no doubt.
Not a day passes without a news of some extremist cell getting exposed or busted. As I write, a massive security blanket has been thrown over temples, churches and public places in the State, after alerts over infiltration by six terrorists. TN is teeming with terror outfits ranging from internationally renowned ISIS and al Qaeda to PoK fame LeT and JeM to small timers and lone wolves here. BJP and its government places sincere stress on national security. But, this will have to necessarily include Tamilnadu in its arc. The bombings in Sri Lanka have cast long shadows over the State’s status as a source of terror. Tamilnadu, with its anti-Centre elements spread all over, particularly in strategic outposts like academia and activism, is a fertile field for breeding terrorism. The State has already had enough experience with its love-hate encounters with LTTE that resulted in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi here. Even today, Sri Lankan Tamil issue keeps TN at cross purposes with national policy and polity. The Centre cannot afford to have one more minefield exploding in TN.
TN is a State with phenomenal potential. Its terrain is varied, containing fields, mountains, seashores, barren land, forests, et all, as defined in ancient texts. All these lend the State to a variety of productive activities. Despite the Justice Party aberration, TN genetically has a nationalistic mindset as personified by the likes of V.O.C, Bharathi, Muthuramalinga Thevar, Rajaji, Kamaraj, etc. The people here also easily identify with national causes even though politically they have voted regional which is more due to the impotency of the national parties.
The State is one of the most industrious in the country and still ranks high in many indices despite years of political corruption and policy stagnation. With the right impetus, TN can emerge as a national leader. The State has the longest unbroken coastline with prospects for several big and small ports. It can regain and retain its glory as the gateway to South East Asia, a historic prerogative that now vests with Singapore and Colombo, thanks to the short-sighted politicos here.
Interlinking rivers has been a fashionable political fad for long. Bringing the meandering TN tributary into the national mainstream, I think, would serve national interest even more in every respect. The day this happens, these articles would have served their purpose.
Tailpiece: Now I ask, should TN be forbidden land? The British in all arrogance declared civilising India as ‘The Whiteman’s burden’. In a different vein but in the same words, let me conclude by saying that salvaging TN is the ‘BJP regime’s burden’.
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