Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The problem with Tamil Nadu...

... is really nothing. Really. For long, I have desisted from taking a potshot at the contradictions that make Tamil Nadu lest it open a can of worms for those with a gargantuan axe to grind to use these potshots in scenarios that suit them the best. But there is a time when such considerations fall away and one has to stand up and say things as one sees it.

The problem with Tamil Nadu is not the Tamils, but the more-Tamil-than-the-Tamils who need to prostitute the beautiful^[1] language. Prostitute, they must to spin their own wheels of acceptability. Whether it has been the newly-converted Muslims or of late the converted Christians or the divorced Dalits, Tamil society has by deliberate acts of social primordiality put Tamil identity over caste identity and far down the totem-pole, religious identity. And the Tamil-uber-alles has served very well for the new immigrants, the new converts, the new [whatever] as well as it has served Tamil Nadu. One reason why "new" immigrants such as Rajnikanth or M. G. Ramachandran or Vijayakanth or Khusboo or why Christians such as Vijay or Vikram can aspire to be the top-echelon of the movie industry is that Tamil society is open to diversity, preferably undeclared. And this openness keeps a tap on "talent", building hopes in the next Rajnikanth or the next Vadivelu somewhere in some deep corner of the state. And in return for this openness, it extracts a price: Tamil-uber-alles, even if it means a fistfight against your erstwhile state, what is good for your community, etc. That tiger can be mounted by anyone, even the national parties that are missing from the state. But as my friend Sun Tzu once said, "those know how to mount a tiger, know how to unmount it [wisp of the beard]..."

The my-caste-uber-alles part of the proposition is also why a Cheeka or an Anand can get only so far. Not to worry, neither of them care a whit about what the establishment dishes out to them. That also explains why the Vanniyars and the Mukkulathhors need a Saiva-Vellalar to broker peace. Nevertheless, for long, it has been fashionable among the Brahmin elite to cast stones at Periyar as much of the Brahmin community sees his legacy with the tinted glasses of poonal aruppu, loss of status quo, fall from the pedestal, out-migration, and what not. Eighty years (and more) past the day when Thalai-Kaveri broke, I believe the Brahmin community shall do well to move on from long-forgotten "wrongs" and stick to whichever state/country they are now an indivisible part of. The Brahmins of Tamil Nadu neither get the "help" from self-appointed representatives of the Brahmin community from elsewhere nor have the demographic advantage to wield a veecharuvaal to the end.

Short of that, Tamil Nadu and Tamil society (and that includes the Brahmins now domiciled there) owe a considerable amount of gratitude to the ideas of Periyar and most important of all, the Self-Respect Movement. One understands Tamil Nadu if one understands what suya-mariyaathai means. Of course, suya-mariyaathai is not the same as NTR's atma-gauravam, nor is it the same as any form of swabhimaan peddled today in the form of neo-corruption battles. The primary reason for this distinction is the historical context which is not re-creatable and the impact the movement has had on the Tamil subconsciousness somuchso that most Tamils know what suya-mariyaathai is even though (I can bet my top$) they may not be able to define what it means to them. The closest definition I have seen is that of Abe Maslow's: "psychological health is not possible unless the essential core of the person is fundamentally accepted, loved and respected by others and by oneself."

And therein lies the crux of the problem, self-respect needs two to tango even though the self-referential nature of the definition defies such an imagination. It needs one to respect him/herself and it needs the "Other" to realize that any transaction occurs on an equal footing. Unfortunately, the "Other" often does not understand the Faustian bargain or worse, mis-interprets the bargain as a commodity that has been bought. Suffice it to say that you have lost me on a moral ground if I have to duel you in an interminable fight for what is right. This has happened too often in the past, whether it be the unending delays in the promulgation of the Official Language Act, the complete ignorance of Sarkaria Commission recommendations, water disputes, etc., that a long-held grievance profile against the Central Government has been nursed and watered by both parties to a mammoth scale. Thus, it is no surprise that the Central Government has no clue as to what gets the Tamils so mad at what happened in Sri Lanka.

What happened and continues to happen in Sri Lanka is a religious war in the garb of a linguistic identity issue. The fact that Tamil-speaking Muslims and the Hindu and converted Christian Tamils are not on the same page ensures that this is no longer a language dispute. What Tamil Nadu has been able to avoid (an inter-religious war by any other means) by putting the language identity on top cannot be/has not been replicated in Singapore or Sri Lanka or Malaysia or Fiji or Mauritius or Guyana. Of course, it helps in places like Mauritius, Fiji or Guyana that the Tamil community is not the first among equals in terms of demographics. The "success" of such a Tamil-uber-alles should be credited where it is due: Self-Respect Movement and Periyar. And those asking for the death of the Dravidian movement shall also invite the needless problems of Christian and Islamist assertion that somehow have missed (in terms of scale) from Tamil Nadu. While one can blame the fact that Arumuga Naavalar preceded Periyar and his ideas, the state-of-affairs can be attributed to the simpler fact that even Rama Setu could not make Sri Lankan Tamil society as diverse as the Tamil Nadu society. You can attribute that to the contiguity of the landmass or whatever, but the Tamils did take to the sea more often than the Brahminical version that became the order of the day in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would allow one to believe.

All things given, good riddance to Prabhakaran and Kittu. But it is also a fact that they were the only ones left standing, much because they were the only ones who succeeded in killing everyone else. It is amply clear that the post-Prabhakaran phase has seen an enervated Tamil polity closely trailed by a maximalist Sinhalese nightmare. While it is only a matter of time before the Tamils shall start the new war, as religious wars never end till the total decimation of one party to the dispute, it is also not surprising that the strategic depth in these times comes from Tamil Nadu. Of course, it is only logical to expect that Tamil Nadu, or rather, the more-Tamil-than-the-Tamil crowd that wields moral and pseudo-political clout, muddies the waters more. One has to be from a strange land to expect the common man from Tamil Nadu to disagree completely with the antics of the more-Tamil-than-the-Tamil crowd. While the pendulum has not completely swung to the other extreme, the vacuum permitted by the officious busibodies that thrive the policy circle can only push it to the other extreme. It will not be surprising if new neo-LTTE camps come up within the state with the State Government looking askance and at the same time throwing helpless lullabies that will put Billy Joel to shame.

The solutions to the mess are simple. First, recognize that Sri Lanka is not a Tamil-Sinhalese problem, but a Hindu+Christian vs. Buddhist problem with the Muslims siding with whoever shall be the winner in an uncomfortable yet agreeable stalemate all the while polishing the demographic part of the equation over time. Second, any war requires favorable demographics to be won and the Hindus do not have the immediate dominance on this matter especially with the out-migration that has happened over the last two decades and the wariness that has set in the post-LTTE phase. Nevertheless, the other party to this dispute sees the Hindus as an extension of India, and not as an isolated one. The Buddhist (and Jaina) chronicles are clear on how the Hindu society regained pre-eminence in the post-Bhakti phase, so an innocent sense of eternal victimhood on the part of Hindus helps noone. Third, there is no solution to this problem except the complete decimation of either party or a two-state solution that ignores the "Other" altogether. Religious wars do not have anything but extremal Nash equilibria.

Fourth, suitors from across the globe will not remain silent if one party succeeds or nears succeeding in decimating the other genocidically. The only one standing in the way of these suitors is of course India. Fifth, there can be no working solution without the involvement of Tamil polity in India with the official blessings of the Government of India. If there are no official blessings, the polity will threaten to do its own bidding. Putting down such rabid dogs out of their misery will be a painful task as time goes on and the Central Government can fast-forward to such an eventuality by taking down the house, right now, right here. It will help us save a lot of blood, and needless to say in India, blood is a cheap commodity with the only advise that I can give is to be selfish and take care of one's life with the self-respect that life deserves. Sixth, all this means that there can be no solution outside India. That possibility is inevitable^[2] as Serendip will sink slowly into the Indian Ocean and re-create the reverse Vijaya journey. However, when that journey does happen, let it be known that the transactions will not be in the form of Sinhalese-uber-alles.

Footnote [1]: Of course, one will know the fact that Tamil is beautiful if one is literate in not necessarily Sanghathh or Tholkappiya or Kambhan Tamil, but in early 20th century Tamil --- not of the esoteric and ethereal kind such as those of Bhaarathiyar or Bhaarathithaasan or Surathaa, but of the stuff that made "Manonmaneeyam" Sundaram Pillai, Mu. Varadaraasan, Ma. Po. Sivagnanam, P. V. Akhilandam, etc, famous.

[2]: It takes no brain to realize that the Indian subcontinent will be the most affected by greenhouse effect and the worst prepared for such an eventuality. It also takes no brain to realize that "Others" know of our eventual/inevitable state much better than we do. Of course, I heard it in a State Department-sponsored talk first with maps on what a 1 cm level rise would be like, etc., that would put the Census commissioner of India to shame.



At October 28, 2012 at 6:23 PM , Blogger Sid Gau said...

When MuKa and the Dravidian ideology passes into the history pages, the religious identities will (re)emerge. Tamil Christians and Hindus have been at each other in the South. But there is a lid so to speak, this lid will be blown away with constant Christian Missionary encroachments. In addition, the Tamil Muslims will also start connecting them with the larger Ulema.

Law of nature....it takes one greater rowdy to keep other rowdies in their place. Be it Middle East or Tamil Nadu, Bihar or UP.


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