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Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
Karunanidhi's Novel: Payum Puli Pandara Vanniyan
18 February 1990, Sri Lanka Island
The Tiger remains the greatest symbol of Tamil might; which it now seems Karunanidhi is set to revive, along with other symbols and issues which have periodically ensured the allegiance of the Tamil Nadu electorate despite constant and systematic efforts by the Centre aimed at diluting the potency of the Dravidian ideology.
This is not from any Sri Lankan history book, but what is found in the 67th instalment of a historical novel by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi currently being serialised in the popular weekly Kumkumam. The novel is Payum Puli Pandara Vanniyan - The leaping Tiger Pandara Vanniyan. Karunanidhi is working with obvious parallels in his novel.
The course of the novel is also connected to current developments in Sri Lanka related to moves by the LTTE. Earlier the novel described the mission of a friend of Veera Pandiya Kattabomman the last Tamil king who resisted the British in Tamil Nadu - to the Wanni jungles in Sri Lanka. His mission was to meet Pandara Vanniyan who was also resisting the British. This part of the novel appeared when Y Gopalsamy MP whom Karunanidhi once referred to as his `sword', visited Pirabaharan in the dense jungles of the Wanni.
Karunanidhi's remarkable literary skills have always had a definite political purpose. His film scripts were fairly influential in his comeback after the death of MGR. His literary merits earned him the name Kalaignar, savant, by which he is now generally known.
What does Karunanidhi have in mind in writing such a novel?
The historical novel has been the most powerful literary genre at the service of the Dravidian movement. It was immensely successful in popularising a so-called `golden era' in the history of the Tamil people. The portrayal of a heroic past and the courageous deeds of various mythical, legendary and historical Tamil kings and chieftains has contributed towards the propagation of a Dravidian Tamilian - identity, distinct and in no way inferior to the `Aryan' culture of the very powerful minority of Brahmins in Tamil Nadu.
`The golden era' along with the uniqueness of the Tamil language and the anti-Brahmin secularism was part of the Dravidian ideology. If the Sangam epoch symbolised the purity of Tamil language and culture, it was the epoch of the Chola kingdom that symbolised the `golden era'. Many novels were about that zenith of Tamil power when the military and naval might of the Chola kingdom subjugated many parts of south east Asia.
The armies of the Chola kingdom marched with the flag which writers and poets of the Dravidian renaissance transformed into the symbol of Tamil might. It was the Chola dynasty's flag of the leaping Tiger.
One of Prabaharan's earliest friends and mentors poet Kasianandan who has surfaced again recently was a student involved in the Dravidian movement during this period. It is generally believed that it was he who named the Tigers so.
The Dravidian movement is no more than the tremendous social and cultural force it was. But the DMK cannot allow along with the wave of the Dravidian ideology, the loss of those symbols that may be required to stir dormant emotions of at least the literate Tamil nationalist sections of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Tiger remains the greatest symbol of Tamil might; which, it now seems, Karunanidhi is set to revive, along with other symbols and issues which have periodically ensured the allegiance of the Tamil Nadu electorate despite constant and systematic efforts by the Centre aimed at diluting the potency of the Dravidian ideology.
Karunanidhi has recently found another way of diminishing the role of greater Indian nationalism. Subtle endeavours by pro-DMK magazines tend to portray the Indian army in Sri Lanka as an external aggressor to be resisted by the Tamil nation. To those steeped in the Dravidian tradition of politico-literary propaganda the message in Karunanidhi's novel is very clear. The leaping Tiger Pandara Van¬niyan is patriotic because he is resisting an external aggressor. The issue of Tamil rights has been replaced by the broader concept of Tamil patriotism which has to resist all external dominations which also provides for tactical compromises, as in the case of the LTTE's Colombo connection.
By externalising the Indian army and extolling Tamil patriotism, through the most useful medium of the Dravidian movement. Karunanidhi may partially succeed in sustaining the potential of Dravidian radicalism.
Karunanidhi has come a long way from the days when he used to constantly demand that Delhi should send the Indian army to save the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
What we have now is a Karunanidhi who is carefully conducting a Tamil nationalist ideology into which he is subtly integrating the Tiger's Tamil patriotism, a task which will gradually create the conditions in Tamil Nad which would be conducive for the perpetuation of DMK's politics and a resistance to the influences of pan-Indianism.
The survival of the LTTE as an independent force is also necessary for the DMK. It is now only too obvious that Delhi's involvement, among other things, has succeeded in politically emasculating the Sri Lankan Tamil movement. Such an emasculation if allowed to proceed any further would ultimately rebound on the DMK also. The LTTE is the only force that has at least survived it, by resisting it even at a very late stage.
Therefore the strategy is distancing the LTTE from the Centre and creating the conditions for the continuation of LTTE's independence. The LTTE has become very active in Tamil Nad again. They are clearing the state of other groups with the help of the Q-F branch which was earlier formed under State police to hunt down ML's commonly known as Naxalites and later turned into the T.N State's arm for handling Sri Lankan Tamil militants.
The Tiger flag, the
historical symbol of Tamil might now flies high in the North and
East no doubt much to the satisfaction of the author of Payum Puli