Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > Relations with Chennai will continue to trouble

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)


Relations with Chennai will continue to trouble

7 March 1999

The Tamil National Movement (Tamizhar Desiya Iyakkam) is holding a conference in support of the Eelam cause in Madurai today (Sunday). The Tamizhar Desiya Iyakkam is led by the Indian Defence Minister's long standing ally, P. Nedumaran.

Sections of the press in Tamil Nadu lament that sympathy for the Tigers in Tamil Nadu is on the rise again. Some of them, such as the Frontline and Thuglak, even try to be helpful by promoting and legitimising the Sri Lankan government's point of view. One of these, the Junior Vikatan recently interviewed our High Commissioner in Delhi, Mangala Moonesinghe. The nationalists there, however, denounce such helpful gestures from some members of the fourth estate in Tamil Nadu, as a manifestation of an old conspiracy by Brahmins and Non-Tamils in the state to undermine Tamil interests.

Mr.Moonesinghe states in his interview to the Junior Vikatan that the Tamil Nadu Chief minister M.Karunanithy and other senior political leaders in the state had declined to accept invitations to meet the Sri Lankan political leadership in India. (This was reported in the Tamil press here). Better informed professionals at the Foreign Ministry may find this troubling, especially because Tamil Nadu is fast emerging as an economic power to be reckoned with in our immediate neighbourhood.

The problem, it should be understood, runs much deeper. It has no quick fix solution and hence needs much in-depth understanding. It is naive to assume that it can be solved by one to one meetings with Tamil Nadu politicians or charming them with one's seeming reasonableness.

There is currently a debate being waged in cyberspace on Brahminism and Tamil Nationalism.

It might throw some light on the suspicions (more ideological than political) and sensitivities which affect, across the Palk strait, the perception of the Tamil question here. Why does the perception that Brahmins and non-Tamils in Tamil Nadu are eagrely on the side of the Sri Lankan government be a thorn on the side in building bridges with this south Indian state? Tamil nationalism has posed a powerful challenge to the ideological construction of the modern states of India and Sri Lanka since 1948.

At the core of the efforts to construct a pan Indian identity, overarching and encompassing diverse ethnic groups and cultures, was/is the notion of Sanskrit- Vedic culture as the foundation of the subcontinent's civilization. The 'fathers' of the 'modern Indian nation' strongly held this view.

At one end of this spectrum were those liberals who wanted to accommodate the subcontinent's linguistic and cultural diversity to make the process of nation building smoother. And at the other, were the Hindhuthva ideologues who were agitating for a pure casteist version of the Hindu socio-religious order as based on Manu's injunctions.

But fundamentally they were agreed on the fact that the broad Sanskrit-Vedic ideology, represented by the modern binary Hindu-Hindi, should have a key function in forging the modern Indian nation state.

During a tour of Tamil Nadu in April 1919, Gandhi called on the Tamil people to reject English and accept Hindi. He urged them to study Hindi to bring out their national feelings (not Tamil but pan Indian). He had also caused the setting up of the Organization for the Propagation of Hindi in Madras the year before.

On the other hand, Golvalkar, one of the founding fathers of the BJP's Hindhuthva ideology, said in his manifesto "As a solution to the problem of lingua franca, till the time Sanskrit takes that place, we shall have to give priority to Hindi on the score of convenience" (Bunch of Thoughts).

The Indian constitution eventually made Hindi as written in the Devanagari script of Sanskrit the official language of India and its language of communication.

The eighth schedule of the Indian constitution that lists the languages of India includes Sanskrit, a language that had ceased to be spoken on the subcontinent many centuries before Christ.

They are just "other languages" in the Indian constitution. A recent move by the state government of Tamil Nadu to make instruction in Tamil compulsory in public schools has been subject to veiled and open attacks in the so called 'Brahmin press'.

Tamil nationalists argue that at the core of the problem is the refusal of the Brahmins to consider themselves ethnic Tamils despite their residence in south India for more than two millennia.

They say that, instead, the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu assume, nowadays ulteriorly, that they are Aryans and consider Sanskrit as their language although they are native Tamil speakers.

Their subdivisions (gothras) in Tamil Nadu are classified according to the groups of their forefathers who migrated to the south from Aariyavartha (the land of the Aryans in Sanskrit)- the boundaries of which are defined by the Hindu law giver Manu in the Manusmriti. At the centre of the Sanskrit cultural order is the Brahmin.

'The binary Arya/Anarya is one of the discursive definitions by which the Sanskrit social order constitutes itself.' The Brahmin/Aryan concept, both as self-perception and textual definition, is biogenetic i.e. racial. The anuloma and prathiloma rules concerning mixed caste offspring leave no doubt as to the racial definition of the concept. The Hindu Law of modern India is based on the Manusmriti.

The Sudra, in the Sanskrit-Vedic cultural order, may only serve the Brahmins and is expressly forbidden from acquiring knowledge.

"It is the duty of the king to order the Sudra to serve the Brahmins. If the Sudra refuses he should be punished and be forced." Ch.10.V.235. Harsher injunctions against the Sudras that may revolt the modern sensibility are numerous in the Manusmriti.

Now this is not an ancient outmoded text that may only be fit to stir one's serendipitous curiosity.

On the contrary, it has been the basis of politically enforcing social hierarchy and cementing relations of power in medieval and even early modern India.

Let us take the 'Krityakalpataru', the enormous work in fourteen volumes of Bhatta Lakshmeedara, the Brahmin scholar minister who wrote it for his king, Govindachandra of the Gaahadhavaala dynasty of Kanauj, the ruler of most of north India in the middle of the twelfth century AD.

The 'Krityakalpataru' is the earliest of the Nibandhas, "digests of social/religious codes of conduct", which define and expatiate on Varnasramadharma, the basis of the Indian caste system.

According to Lakshmeedara "Whatever act the Aariyas who know the Vedas claim to be Dharma, is Dharma; whatever they reject is said to be Adharma" - 'Krityakalpataru'. Vol.1 Chapter 1.

Chapter 29 of Book 2 takes up in detail the things Sudras should be denied - "One must never bestow learning upon a Sudra�. Whoever tells him about Dharma or instructs him in vows will go to the hell called 'Vast Darkness', along with the Sudra himself. "Suffice to say here that the medieval Sanskrit influenced 'Nihandu' (Thesaurus) composed by Pingalar lists the Vellalas, the Tamil farming/scribal caste, as Sudras. (Chapter 2.)

So this, in essence, was the Vedic-Sanskrit culture revered by the makers of modern India say Tamil nationalists.

The ideologues of Hindhuthva were blunt unlike some of their castemen in the Congress. How Gandhi and other Congress leaders discreetly and, at times, openly shared these views has been well recorded by scholars of the Dravidian movement and by Dr.Ambedkar.

The biggest and most serious challenge to 'Hindhuthva' as the core founding ideology of the modern Indian state was the Dravidian movement's assertion that the Aryans were alien invaders.

The concerted assaults on 'Hindhuthva' by Dr. Ambedkar and the Dravidian movement and linguistic and literary evidence that the Aryans were a people who had come into the subcontinent from elsewhere created an urgent need to legitimize and 'ground' the Sanskrit-Aryan ideology.

It was in this context that Guru Golvalkar , an ideological progenitor of the BJP, contrived the dogma that north India was the original homeland of the Aryans. He asserts in his manifesto

" The origin of our People is unknown to scholars of history. In a way were are anaadhi; without a beginning or we existed when there was no need for any name. We were the good, the enlightened people. We were the people who knew about the laws of nature and the laws of spirit. We had brought into actual life almost everything that was beneficial to mankind.

"Then the rest of humanity was just bipeds and so no distinctive name was given to us. Sometimes in trying to distinguish our people from others, we were called the enlightened -the Aryas- and the rest Melachas". (Bunch of Thoughts).

In Sanskrit Melachcha means barbarian. Now one of his scholarly modern day followers (Aggrawal) argues "The most weird aspect of the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is that it has its origin not in any Indian records... AIT has no support either in Indian literature, tradition, science, or not even in any of the south Indian (Dravidians, inhabitants of south India, who were supposed to be the victims of the so-called Aryan invasion) literature and tradition."

Tamil nationalist scholars in South India say that this is the latest effort by Brah-minism and its allies to undermine the basic tenets of the distinct southern linguistic-cultural identity. They say that this is a blatant effort to cover up what, according to them, is indubitable evidence in the Tamil classics that the Tamils saw the Aryans as hostile invaders.

"Let my bangles break like the Aryan army that was routed before the fort of the Cholas at Vallam." says a girl in the 2nd century B.C work Akananooru.

Another work from the same period says "like the Aryan hordes at Mulloor that fled before the lone spear of Malaiyan, (the wielder) of the shining sword".

As long as politically influential Tamil nationalists in south India refuse in this manner to yield to the pan-Indianising influence of Hindi and Vedic culture, suspicions will linger on; suspicions that now find their way inexorably into cyberspace; and more importantly they are, even distantly, suspicions that will continue to trouble Colombo's relations with Chennai.


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