Narendra Modi’s new found love for Tamil

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which in recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency.

Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event?

All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. After all, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs.

Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing the imposition of Hindi by Union governments.

Periyar E.V. Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number of people sacrificed their lives. Tamil Nadu is the only state in India which officially doesn’t follow the Government of India’s three-language formula in school education. It has adopted a two-language formula.

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi, originally from Bihar, stoked controversy in this year’s Republic Day speech about the three-language formula without realising that it is perceived as Hindi imperialism by the people of the state.

Narendra Modi has understood that the strongest resistance to the imposition of Hindi will be from Tamil Nadu and perhaps that prompted him to honour Tamil and Tamilians in his constituency. In his eighth year of Prime Ministership, he has discovered that Tamil is one of the nation’s oldest languages.

Not to be left behind, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has claimed that the two classical languages, Tamil and Sanskrit, emerged from Lord Shiva’s mouth.

Amit Shah, who was initially advocating translation or transliteration of engineering and medicine books in Hindi, has now appreciated that such books are being made available in Tamil. The religious link between Kashi and Tamil Nadu is being highlighted in the month-long Kashi Tamil Sangamam being organized by Uttar Pradesh and the Union governments. Why is the Tamil Nadu government not part of these celebrations? It is being claimed that the Tamil Nadu government did not respond to the invitations from Union and UP governments.

That brings us to the imposition of the Hindu religion over all Indians. Periyar had taken a position against Brahminical Hinduism and was working for the eradication of the caste system in Tamil Nadu. He had set ablaze Hindu religious texts which contained anti-Dalit or anti-Shudra writings. Even Mayawati had to abandon him as a Dalit icon when she entered into an alliance with Brahmins in UP. Among the Dalit icons on display in Lucknow memorials built by the Mayawati government, Periyar is conspicuous by his absence. The two political parties which dominate Tamil Nadu today – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – both emerged from the party that he had formed – Dravida Kazhagam (DK).

The present Chief Minister MK Stalin’s father M Karunanidhi, a five-time chief minister of DMK governments, was a declared atheist. How does the Union government which designs an event based on Hindu religious identity, in which people from Tamil Nadu are being taken on a religious pilgrimage in Varanasi, Prayagraj and Ayodhya, expect the Tamil Nadu government to be part of it? The most dominating influence on Tamils, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy doesn’t find a place in Kashi Tamil Sangamam. The Union and UP governments have failed to realize that the common people of Tamil Nadu can’t be comfortable with the way Kashi Tamil Sangamam is being organised and promoted.

Now, let us come to the idea of Hindustan or one nation. Periyar while leading the Self-Respect movement in Tamil Nadu had advocated for an independent Dravida Nadu or land for Dravidians. Recently, DMK member of Parliament and former Union Minister, A Raja, has revived the idea of a separate Tamil Nadu if the state were to be denied autonomy. In another recent incident at the Chennai airport, a Central Industrial Security Force woman officer asked DMK leader and Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi, if she was an Indian because she confessed she was not familiar with Hindi. Such humiliation of the non-Hindi-speaking population has always alienated people not belonging to the Hindi heartland. Recently, an 85 years old DMK worker self-immolated himself for the imposition of Hindi by the Union government and Prime Minister.

Tamil Nadu is not a Jammu and Kashmir or a Nagaland. It is the seventh most populous state of India with a clear Hindu identity, and a distinct culture contiguous to Indian culture but at variance with the idea of Brahminical Hinduism sought to be promoted by BJP/RSS.

Tamil Nadu, with the largest number of temples to people ratio in India, is the only state in the country which has a caste-based reservation system implemented for the post of priests in temples. BJP/RSS realise that their policies are alienating Tamil Nadu further and they simply can’t afford it even though they may have failed to make inroads in Tamil politics.

Therefore, the Kashi Tamil Sangamam is an attempt to show that the BJP and the RSS care for Tamil Nadu and would like to someday soon win over its support. But they do not realise that an event thousands of kilometres away, with thousands of sponsored Tamilians participating, cannot achieve this objective without the participation of either the state government or the ordinary people of Tamil Nadu.

By Sandeep Pandey

Note: Sandeep Pandey is the General Secretary of the Socialist Party (India).

Acknowledgement: The writer would like to thank Sugata Srinivasaraju for his input.


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