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Brahminism & Mr.Taraki
Mr.Taraki is a regular columnist in the Sinhala owned newspaper, the Sunday Island, published in Colombo. The Sunday Island's views on the Tamil national liberation struggle are, ofcourse well known. It is a paper which denies the existence of the Tamil nation. It is a paper which has consistently refused to recognise the legitimacy of the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam - a liberation struggle which seeks to defend the Tamil people against a forty year effort by the Sinhala State to subjugate and bend them to its will. It is to this paper that Mr. Taraki writes on Tamil affairs - no doubt to the satisfaction of those whom he serves.
Recently the editors of three newspapers in Sri Lanka were charged under the country's draconian emergency regulations with 'causing hatred, ill will and contempt of the government', simply because they had published the allegation of the former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Premadasa Udugampola, that death squads used against the JVP had the patronage of the government. Mr. Taraki's writings on Tamil affairs, though they have sometimes given the appearance of favouring the Liberation Tigers, have never attracted the same kind of attention from the Sri Lanka government.
It was the Shah of Iran who once remarked that one of the weapons that he used against national liberation movements was internal subversion. The goal, he said, was to allow the national movement to grow in a particular direction in order to defeat it. Mr. Taraki's latest piece, in the Sunday Island of 26 April, entitled 'Tamil Nationalism Fights Back', appearing as it does in a paper opposed to Tamil nationalism of any kind, merits careful attention, particularly as it seems that Mr. Taraki is intent on setting the ideological agenda for Tamil nationalism.
What does Mr. Taraki say? He begins with what is an unexceptionable assessment.He says:
Mr. Taraki is right when he says that Chief Minister Jayalalitha seeks to use Hinduism to blunt the thrust of a growing Tamil national consciousness. But herein lies the nub - and the question that Mr.Taraki chooses not to ask. Why does Chief Minister Jayalalitha take the view that a resort to Hinduism is the answer to a rising Tamil national consciousness?
Is Hinduism in some way inconsistent with Tamil national consciousness? Is belief in a religion inconsistent with the Tamil national identity? Cannot Hindus be Tamils? Cannot Christians be Tamils?
Does not Chief Minister Jayalalitha know that any national identity is rooted in the heritage of a people, in their language and in their culture, that it is consolidated by an outside which treats them differently, and that it is given direction and purpose by their aspirations for a future, where they may live in equality and in freedom?
Again, if Christianity failed to prevent the growth of the separate nations of Christian Europe, why should Hinduism succeed in preventing the growth of the separate nations of Hindu India?
Does not Chief Minister Jayalalitha see the force of reason in that which the Bengali writer, Pramatha Chauduri said in the 1920s:
Why then does Chief Minister Jayalalitha take the view that the answer to a rising Tamil national consciousness is Hinduism? Has she succumbed to a foolish whim, an irrational thought?
She knows well enough why it was that Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, the undoubted father of the Dravidian movement, in the end, failed to deliver on the promise of Dravida Nadu. What was it that went wrong? Why did E.V.R. fail where Mohamed Ali Jinnah succeeded?
Two reasons stare one in the face. One was the attempt of the Dravida movement to encompass Tamils, Malayalees, Kannadigas and all Dravidians and mobilise them behind the demand for Dravida Nadu. Unsurprisingly, the attempt to mobilise across what were in fact separate national formations failed to take off.
The comments of Professor K.Nambi Arooran in his well researched Tamil Renaissance and Dravidian Nationalism, serve to throw some light. He writes:
It was one thing to found a movement which addressed the contradiction between the non Brahmin Dravidian and Brahmin Aryan who sought to rule and dominate. It was quite another thing, to mobilise Dravidians, speaking different languages with different historical memories, into an integrated political force in support of the demand for Dravida Nadu.
E.V.R was right to extoll the virtues of pahuth arivu, common sense. He was right to attack mooda nambikai, foolish faith. His rationalism was often a refreshing reaction to religious dogma and superstition. His attack on casteism, his social reform movement and his Self Respect Movement in the 1920s infused a new dignity, thanmaanam, amongst the Tamil people and laid the foundations on which Tamil nationalism has grown.
One consequence of EVR's atheism was that spirituality in Tamil Nadu came to be regarded as the special preserve of those who were opposed to the growth of Tamil nationalism. It is this which Chief Minister Jayalalitha now seeks to exploit. And it is this which Mr.Taraki is intent on perpetuating when he says:
Tamil Nation is not muddled. It is clear about the roots of Tamil nationalism It understands only too well that Hindus and Christians are also part of the Tamil nation. Tamil Nation recognises that the fundamental ideas of the Dravidian movement are rooted in the resistance against Brahmin domination. The Tamil Nation recognises that the fundamental ideas of the Tamil national movement owe their origin to the Social Reform movement of E.V.R.
As for Aurobindo's words which the Tamil Nation carries on its editorial page, Mr. Taraki, whether knowingly or unknowingly, misleads his readers when he fails to inform them that Aurobindo quit the political arena by 1911; that the E.V.R - V.V.S. Aiyer Shermadevi incident occurred in 1924/25; that Aurobindo had nothing whatever to do with the stand that V.V.S. Aiyer took at Shermadevi; and that the quotation that the Tamil Nation carries is from Aurobindo's epic poem, Savitri, which he wrote in his Pondicherry Ashram in the 1930s.
The Tamil Nation needs no lectures from pseudonymous writers in the Sinhala owned press in Sri Lanka about what Tamil nationalism is or should be about.