The Scales Tilt...
The self-assigned label of “protector of Tamils” worn by M. Karunanidhi, former chief minister and DMK supremo, is no longer finding endorsement among those fighting for the Tamil cause. In fact, he is drawing criticism ranging from the mild—“he loves Tamil only in word, not in deed”—to the harsh—“he’s a betrayer of the Tamil cause”. His farcical fast against the genocide of Tamils during his term as chief minister—he’d said, “Let me become one of Sri Lanka President Rajapakse’s victims, it will be my sacrifice on behalf of all Tamils”—and such other actions have led to the perception that he’s an opportunist who clung to power while selling out the Tamil cause.
But has he ceded his “protector of Tamils” tag, along with chief ministership, to J. Jayalalitha. The latter piloted a resolution early this month seeking Indian economic sanctions to rein in Colombo, speedy rehabilitation of displaced Sri Lankan Tamils and bringing charges of war crimes against those who committed excesses during the endgame against the LTTE. For some, Karunanidhi has indeed been toppled from his ‘Tamil votary’ perch by Jayalalitha. Film director Seeman, arrested several times by the Karunanidhi government, including under sedition charges, is believed to have called Jayalalitha a “guardian deity”. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol Thirumavalavan, a vocal supporter of the LTTE and of Tamil movements across the world, is quoted as grudgingly giving credit to Jayalalitha for the resolution. Thirumavalavan has reason to be angry with Karunanidhi, for he lost his loyal constituency after having been part of a DMK-led delegation of MPs to Sri Lanka after the war.
D. Ravikumar, a former VCK MLA and Tamil writer, concedes that “there are some qualitative changes in Jayalalitha’s approach. The resolution is more assertive and concrete.” But he acknowledges that it has symbolic value only, since state governments do not dictate foreign policy. “What’s important is what the Centre does about the resolution,” he says. “Many nations have condemned what Sri Lanka did, but India hasn’t. There’s no change at the Centre, and without change there, nothing can be done.”
Pazha Nedumaran, who founded the Tamil National Movement in 1979, is an acerbic critic of the ex-CM. “Karunanidhi,” he says, “has no right to call himself the protector of Tamils.” Pointing out that Tamil is still not the official language in the government, Nedumaran asks, “He was CM six times. What did he do for Tamil?” He accuses Karunanidhi of organising the World Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore in May last year “to divert the attention of the Tamil people, because he knew they were angry with him for doing nothing in Sri Lanka.” Of Jayalalitha, he says, “She got the resolution passed unanimously in the Tamil Nadu assembly. She then met the prime minister and followed it up. The ball is in the Centre’s court. We’ll wait and see.”
Dr A.R. Venkatachalapathy, a Tamil writer and professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, feels that disillusionment with Karunanidhi worsened with his flippant remarks. When the Sri Lankan army marched into an area where the LTTE had holed up using about one lakh non-combatants as a human shield, he had said, “After it rains, it continues to drizzle”, implying that in war, collateral damage is normal. He blotted his copybook further by rushing to Delhi to fight for cabinet berths for his kin in UPA-II, but never once went there to seek intervention for a cause he claimed was dear to him.
Asserting Herself: Jaya at a press meet in Delhi. (Photograph by Sanjay Rawat)
All the praise being heaped on Jayalalitha, who has so far been praised for her administration and bold decisions rather than as a champion of the Tamil cause, is however countered by some. “Her intervention is opportunistic and cynical,” says Geeta V., publisher, Tara Books. “She wants to be one up on Karunanidhi.” Afraid of the consequences of Jayalalitha going back to her dictatorial ways, another Tamil crusader says, “The Tamil cause is a free-for-all for political parties and their petty games.” Geeta puts things in perspective, saying Karunanidhi’s claims to championing the Tamil cause have been challenged by many, including the radical Left and Tamil nationalists. “He was never allowed to get away with proclaiming himself a leader of the Tamils.”
Such games of one-upmanship between Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi are legendary and so is their penchant for never giving the devil its due. So much so that when Jayalalitha presided over the resolution, DMK MLAs were absent in the assembly. They used a comment by the Leader of the Opposition, Vijayakanth of the DMDK—“The credit for eliminating the Tamil race in Sri Lanka goes to the DMK”—as a spur to walk out. Karunanidhi protested later in a letter to partymen that he was “unduly criticised” and that Jayalalitha had “deliberately” forgotten that DMK MPs had resigned to protest Sri Lankan action against Tamils and that he had made several appeals to the Centre on the issue. “People know who is enacting a farce on this,” he observed darkly.
So, has Jayalalitha really become the new guardian of Tamils or has she got the title only because Tamils are livid with Karunanidhi? Venkatachalapathy says, “She has capitalised on the perception that he has let down the Tamil cause.”
It’s astonishing how a Brahmin from Karnataka with Hindu nationalist views could win the hearts of the Tamil ‘nationalists’ (An Image Is Flipped, Jul 11). I think this is a good sign for India. I was impressed by Jayalalitha’s recent interview on television; she came across as a more mature, decisive leader. There was no wishy-washiness from her on national security, or on anything else for that matter.
If the lady plays her cards well, her constituency could be a lot larger than the Tamils.
Ashok Lal, Mumbai
The Tamil race’s unending saga of tribulations was written the day the ltte was born. As for Karunanidhi, the less said the better. Amma might be corrupt but she is more forthright in her views.
Karunanidhi was never known to sweat over anything that did not bring in benefits to his family or fetched him laurels, even if they are hollow.
N.S. Rajan, Bangalore
Kudos to the CM for conveying the sentiments of the Tamil people to the nation through the resolution.
M. Hariharasudhan, Chennai
Both of them are hypocrites who sing the Tamil cause for votes. But Karunanidhi is the biggest hypocrite of them all. He was a silent witness to the massacre of the Lankan Tamil population with the tacit support of India.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Karunanidhi is a leader of Tamil? He is a Telugu. No problem about his Telugu origin. He hatred for Tamil language has a long history. Following are happenings during Karunanidh as a CM and in general as a political leader : calling Tamil speaking Brahmins as non-Tamil, calling non-Tamils including Hindi-speaking Muslims, Telugu speaking Reddys and other Kannada, Sautrashtra, Gujarathi, Marvadi communities as Tamils and providing them reservation as "OBC", something genuine Tamil speakers including Brahmins are unable to get in 'Tamil' Nadu; using Tamil Nadu as a arms route for Eelam IV war which was used in mass killing of Tamil civilians, issue of fake ration cards without any residency documents to Hindi migrants, letting of hundreds of ticketless passengers from Bihar go without charge in Rameswaram, being a mute spectator (or probably as supporter) for everyday killings of Tamil fisherman of the coast of Tamil Nadu by Sri Lankan Navy, worse arranging of kidnap of Tamil fisherman to portray they were kidnapped by Sri Lankan Navy, closing of Tamil schools in Tamil Nadu and giving land grants for CBSE schools - which do not teach Tamil, only Hindi as a compulsory subject, granting immunity to such schools against state legislation including compusory teaching of Tamil, conversion of state schools to CBSE, reserving of jobs to Hindi speakers in Tamil Nadu while denying the same to Tamil workersban of use Tamil language in Tamil Nadu central institutions etc. Behind the drama, behind the caste hate meetings, behind the silence lies the hard and bitter truth that Karunanidhi was not only a non-Tamil, but a Tamil hater.
This is a clear warning what a godawful nuisance Jayalalitha will be,if the Congress Party makes her a coalition partner.Puratchi Thalaivi is after her legacy in the evening of her life.And she will not brook any second guesses in its pursuit,especially because the LTTE pose no threat to her now.Best of both worlds.
The difference is between sheer hypocrisy and a sincere attempt to do something now, even if it was not done in the past. Karunanidhi is not known to sweat over anything that does not result in benefits for his own family or fetching him laurels,even if they are hollow.
“In Tamil Nadu it’s clearly the Survival of the Shrewdest. Every CM in past has shown exemplary Plumbing Skills by way of siphoning people’s money in their personal pools.”
Both of them are hypocrites who sing the Tamil cause for votes. But Karunanidhi is the biggest hypocrite of them all . He was a silent witness to the genocide pepetuated on the Lankan Tamil Population with the tacit support of India at the behest of Sonia&co.
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