Sunday, April 22, 2012

"There is no race called Dravidians" - Comrade P. Maniarasan

Identity Crisis
N ASOKAN | Issue Dated: April 22, 2012, New Delhi

The 100-year-old Dravidian movement is struggling to avoid fragmentation and new personalities, reports N Asokan

On February 27 this year when K Karunanidhi, the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) patriarch kickstarted yearlong celebrations of the centenary of the Dravidian movement, he was livid.Taking the help of some typically colourful rhetoric which had once propelled him among the frontline of scriptwriters in the Tamil film industry, the former chief minister spoke strongly, "We are Tamils by language, Dravidians by race, Indians by country and humans by the world.” 

The cause of Karunanidhi's anger was a newspaper report on the same morning that had termed the Dravidian movement a bluff.

In the paper, K Sakthivel, a little-known political activist, had criticised the Dravidian movement as an illusion that had suppressed the rights of Tamils and helped the cause of non-Tamils in the state. Tamil identity and language have always been sensitive subjects, and back in the 1950s and 60s, were the catalysts for anti-Hindi demonstrations and riots in Tamil Nadu. Luckily for the country, it did not go beyond that but the seeds of projecting a separate and unique identity lay even further than the riots.

In 1962, in his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha, DMK founder CN Annadurai, thundered, "I belong to the Dravidian stock. I am proud to call myself a Dravidian. That does not mean that I am against a Bengali or a Maharashtrian or a Gujarati. I say that I belong to the Dravidian stock and that is only because I consider that the Dravidians have got something concrete, something distinct, something different to offer to the nation at large”.

The speech had reverberations round the country and galvanised Tamil nationalism as never before. But the Dravidian movement, which started as essentially a non-Brahmin agitation in 1917 in the Madras presidency, has undergone many changes and withstood umpteen fissures and fragmentation in its 100-year-old history.

It is also a reflection of how times have changed. In its centenary year, DMK is the only political party to recognise and celebrate its centenary. Neither All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK), an offshoot and now bitter rival of the DMK, nor the DMDK, both parties that bear the Dravidian identity in their party names, have bothered to be involved. The only positive noises have come from Vaiko-led MDMK.

By a coincidence, in its 100th year the Dravidian ideology is under threat of dilution from a band of small Tamil nationalist political parties and it is no surprise that the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) led by Ramadoss has also given a helping hand to this increasing opposition.

Ramadoss, who has contested many elections along with Dravidian parties, has declared that he will never tie up with any Dravidian party in future and has attacked the 45-year Dravidian rule as creating neo-Brahmins while alienating Dalits, minorities and other socially and economically backward sections of society.

Away from the fire of Anna, Tamil nationalist parties highlight their Tamil identity saying that the word Dravidian, which includes Telugus, Malayalis and Kannadigas, did not help the Tamil cause after the reorganisation of states on the basis of languages in 1956.

Just how much is this dilution? P Maniarasan of the Tamil Nationalist Communist Party offers an explanation: "There is no race called Dravidians. It were the Aryans who referred to Tamils as Dravidians as they were unable to pronounce the word Tamil. In Tamil literature, there is no word called Dravidam. Academic evangelist Bishop Robert Caldwell while researching south Indian languages, coined the word 'Dravidian' to denote this family of languages. He sourced this word from Sanskrit.''

Political ideologues in Chennai fear that the Dravidian question will lead to a more fragmented Tamil Nadu. "The stand taken against Dravidian identity by people like Ramadoss, Seemaan (Naam Thamizhar Katchi), and K Sakthivel (Makkal Maanaadu Katchi) will only lead to a more divided Tamil Nadu,'' says analyst Viduthalai Rajendran.

He adds, "These leaders want to cross-examine EVR Periyar for the yeoman service he did to the Tamil community. Dravidian movement should be seen in the light of the social milieu of that period. A major section of Tamils were oppressed by the caste system under Brahmanism. Dravidian movement attacked the caste system and its fruits are evident. But these neo-Tamil nationalists are working to create a caste-based Tamil Nadu which even a common language will not be able to unite.''

Dalit writer and former MLA of Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi provides a different perspective. He denounces both the Dravidan movement and Tamil identity politics. "The Justice Party, forebearer of the DMK dominated by rich Telugus, was against rights for Dalits. The original non-Brahmin movement was not interested in abolishing the caste divide. Have these leaders who speak about the Tamil identity instead of Dravidian identity, abandoned their own caste identities?'' Good question.

What is the future of this sudden eruption of Tamil identity voices? Scholars say that the politics of hatred is easy and simple to crank up but can neither gain respect nor produce good results. They could well be right, if 100 years of Dravidian politics is anything to go by.

1 comment:

  1. however you talking about tamizh thesiyam but you flag is red and white color, its make prove you are in DMK or dravidian follower. you are not Tamil.
    do you have any explain about the color red and white. all of dravidian color red and black. but you flag has red black and white.




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