Provocations in Tamil Nadu

Print edition : December 26, 2014

FOR the Sangh Parivar, the Dravidian land of Tamil Nadu remains elusive. The Hindutva group is yet to penetrate into this southern State where social justice and self-respect movements have facilitated a spirit of tolerance of all faiths and spawned a host of parties based on the ideals of a casteless and secular society advocated by the social reformer ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy.

History suggests that Tamil Nadu has never been tolerant to the script of Hindutva majoritarianism which threatens to tear apart the pluralistic fabric of Indian society by creating a single religious identity. The Dravidian parties have been resisting the Sangh Parivar at the cultural level. However, politically, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are, for short-term gains, making it easy for the BJP to gain a foothold in the State.

The DMK, which was a crucial ally of the BJP in 1999 when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power, had opposed some of the policy initiatives of the A.B. Vajyapee government in the field of education. The NDA had sought to introduce astrology and Vedic studies in the University Grants Commission (UGC)-approved curriculum for higher education. S. S. Palanimanickam of the DMK urged the government to withdraw the circular in this regard immediately. Ironically, the DMK was very much part of the NDA when the Gujarat pogrom happened in 2002. The AIADMK was the first Dravidian party to join hands with the BJP. Its leader Jayalalithaa was even accused of sending kar sevaks to Ayodhya in 1992.

In June, Tamil Nadu protested against the Narendra Modi government’s proposal to make the use of Hindi mandatory for officials, especially in the government’s social media handles. Jayalalithaa, who was Chief Minister then, wrote to Modi asking him to drop the proposal. She said it was against the letter and spirit of the Official Languages Act, 1963. She said communication from a Central government office to a State or Union Territory in Region “C” should be in English, otherwise people in that region would not have access to public information. As protests grew, the Home Ministry withdrew the directive, saying it was not against any language.

Neither the DMK nor the BJP’s allies in the State—the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam—have hesitated to condemn the saffron party on several issues. They have opposed the introduction of Sanskrit replacing German as the third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas.

Hate speeches by BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders have increased, vitiating the atmosphere. The scurrilous speech made by one of its senior leaders and national secretary H. Raja in Chennai on January 4 against Christians and Muslims, which went viral on YouTube, prompted protests from rights activists and secularists.

Raja had criticised the papal office and called all Tamils Hindus. He also angered Periyar’s followers by saying that the social reformer should have been beaten with a slipper for his social agenda.

Social activist A. Marx, along with secular groups, submitted a petition to the Director General of Police seeking legal action against Raja. Marx said hate speech should be banned as “it is an irresponsible act”. The Nungambakkam police station in Chennai registered cases against Raja under Sections 153 (A) and 505 of the Indian Penal Code on a complaint filed by Dravidar Kazhagam vice-president Poongundran.

All this does not deter the State BJP from hoping that party president Amit Shah’s visit will galvanise it.

Ilangovan Rajasekaran

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