Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Response to a comment on the Madras Manade post

I found this comment on the post on claims to Madras city (http://dharma-yuddham.blogspot.in/2011/12/chennai-illai-madras-tales-from-city.html):

The account given is evidently partisan as it is apparently written by a Tamil or a Tamil sympathizer.If history is written by an interested party, truth suffers. Go back to history. The city developed around the settlement (Fort Saint George) permission for which was given to the British by the Nayaks, Telugus, who ruled different regions of the province. The Nayaks controlled the coastal areas from Pulicat to Santhom.After all Chennai is a name derived from Chennapattnam, a village named after Damarla Chennappqa Nayaka. When readers wrote to The Hindu, your own paper, to keep politicians out of the issue and hold a referendum, it was not taken note of.If the Tamil leaders were so sure of their numbers in the city, they would have agreed for a plebiscite to settle the vexatious problem. Neither did they agree to the Wanchoo committee recommendation to allow Andhras to share Madras as capital for a limited period. It shows their intransigence, well supported by Nehru indirectly. The evil genius Rajaji, who is supposed to be a leader of national stature, was so cruel that the Andhras were forced to go overnight and put up tents in Kurnool to serve as capital. What is this "greater contact" of Tamils, Kalki, a writer of so repute and is supposed to be universal in his outlook. speaks of. He acted as a mouthpiece of Rajaji unashamedly. When so many readers wrote to The Hindu to keep politicians out of the issue and hold a referendum the Tamil leaders simply ignored it to their convenience. As there was genuineness to the Andhra Cause there was no response in support of Tamils from Tamil leaders themselves.

From what I can guess, the author of the piece that you are criticizing is most likely Tamil rather than Telugu. But he could as well have been a nobody. The point of his article was to expound on the claims and counter-claims on Madras city.

Madras did not exist in the form we know it today prior to the setting up of George Town (the then Black Town, which slowly merged with the White Town established by the British). Madras in the form it exists today has known of a substantial native population (by which I mean a predominant generation that has been born in Madras and grown in Madras) only over the last 60-70 years. Madras has primarily been an immigrant city, and even today caters to a large "immigrant" population from all over Tamil Nadu and also the rest of India, especially with the boom in IT, manufacturing and construction industries. While not as cosmopolitan as Bangalore or filmi Bombay are, Madras still maintains its ethos of crappy conservatism (copyrighted) by limiting/discouraging free-for-all immigration inside the city limits by an artificial and socially structured process of reverse gentrification.

That said, Telugu speakers have remained a significant part of Madras in the 40s as well as today. I know of enough cases of some version of Telugu spoken at home followed by fluent Madras Tamil conversations on the street. Nevertheless, claims to Telugu speaker majority are a bit of voodoo science. There are enough evidences to point to the fact that Telugu speakers were NOT more numerically preponderant than the Tamil speakers in the 30s and 40s. The 1941 Census under the British points to a 15-70 split (or so claims the author of the piece). From my understanding and studies in the by-gone days (on which I wont bet my paycheck, except for a first order claim), the 15% in 1941 census reflected a growing percentage of Telugu speakers in Madras city from what that number stood at in the late 19th century.

There are multiple reasons to explain that trend. Foremost of which was the rise of limited private enterprise in Madras city under the British. As is usually the case, the most sought after factor in private enterprise was kith and kin, followed by trust in the form of local, regional, religious and linguistic bonds. With trade and business firmly in the control of Telugu speakers (vis-a-vis the Tamil speakers), it was only a matter of time before the non-land owning Telugu speaker percentage rose in Madras city. Another important factor behind the rise of Telugu speaker percentage was the rise of South Indian cinema from the late 20s through 40s and beyond. Bilinguals (Tamil and Telugu) were a common feature as was the free use of resources (capital, people, ideas and audience) from all over Madras Presidency. With the cinema industry acting as the springboard for all types of social revolutions (version 1.0), Madras city attracted all kinds of people from far and wide. If the Telugu speakers had made a claim to Madras city and Andhra Pradesh in 1961 instead of 1951, there is a good likelihood that Madras city would have become a part of Andhra Pradesh.

There are no vexatious problems as for the claim of Madras city -- neither then nor now. The "referendum" idea makes no sense either especially when census figures are right there to look at. Even discounting a 20% adjustment from Tamil speakers to Telugu speakers, for whatever be the reason, there is no case made for Madras city as a part of Andhra Pradesh, if it is one vote per person. However, the idea of equal votes for all is an illusory fancy that titillates the imagination of socialists of all hues. In practice, every person can claim only as many votes as per the decibel level of ruckus they can raise. If that is the case, sure there is a vexatious issue to resolve. Unfortunately, I am not too bothered about such problems as I have enough of my own.

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