This refers to your cover story on the 100 years of the Dravidian movement (Dravidian Century: A Paradox, Dec 12). The Dravidian movement had got a shot in the arm during the anti-Hindi agitations of the 1960s. Even then, the ruling class mostly comprised educated Brahmins. Hence it was inherently rooted in caste discrimination. The socio-economic condition of the lower-middle-class and the poor was most miserable and Dravidian leaders cunningly exploited this situation in order to preserve and gain further control of politics in the state. Once they were in power, the original ideology of the movement—protection of language and emancipation of the marginalised—got diluted and a thin, tokenist kind of Tamil pride became central to the movement.
PS: I saw a Dravidian language script on the cover of an English language magazine cover for the first time. Nice intervention, Outlook!
V.N.K Murti Pattambi, Pattambi
The Dravidian movement’s doctrine of anti-Brahminism had as much to do with the politics of the nation as with the politics of caste. It initially sought to challenge Brahmin hegemony in the fields of education and administration. Periyar, the thinker who articulated the movement’s ideology initially, pointed out that Brahmin domination ultimately served larger corporate interests only. But there were few who supported his anti-Brahmin stance in other ‘Dravidian’ states such as Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. How much weight did Periyar’s tongue-lashings against Brahminism actually carry? He called God a muttaal (idiot) and believers vadikattina (incorrigible idiots). His committed audience would go into raptures when he used such explicit anti-theist rhetoric. Any constructive criticism seemed far from possible when such populist rhetoric was being used to drive the movement.
Col C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Apropos Footprints Of The Original Anti-Nationals (Dec 12), let me quote from your story to analyse it properly:
“Anti-national was not the only abuse hurled at him. His party…was later called the Justice Party after its flagship newspaper was debunked as collaborationist, serving British colonial interests for the fishes and loaves of office. But Theagaraya Chetty would turn down the chief ministership of the Madras Presidency when his party swept the 1920 elections. So much for being collaborationist and anti-national. Calling one’s political opponents anti-national is apparently no new weapon.”
The same Theagaraya Chetty and Co supported the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. What would you call them? Patriots?
“Arguing that a government conducted on ‘true British principles’ of justice and equality were in India’s best interests, the manifesto declared its loyalty to British rule.”
Seriously, what else would you call people who supported the continuation of the British rule in India?
“At a time when Hindutva forces are riding the high horse of nationalism, the ‘anti-nationalism’ of Periyar and the non-Brahmin manifesto deserve to be commemorated....”
Really! Periyar declared August 15 as a ‘black day’, a day of mourning. He wanted a separate, independent State of Tamil Nadu. It’s incredible that to call such a person an anti-national doesn’t go down well with some people!
Akash Verma, Chennai
The worst collaborators of the British authorities in India were the RSS and the Hindutva brigade led by Veer Savarkar and Co. Today, the same lot lays claim over patriotism and tries to manipulate the gullible. The ideology they follow has been promoting not only communalism but also casteism, one of their major objectives being the preservation of the Brahmin hegemony. People like Periyar were aware of this and were actively fighting against these forces.
T. Nayak, Washington
Race was one of the earliest categories of anthropological identification/differentiation. The Aryan-Dravidian race theory is a concept imposed on India by the early Europeans. It is a racist idea, but we continue to subscribe to such theories. Dravidian parties such as the DK, DMK and AIADMK usurped this concept and, in a fantastical leap of historical assumption, went on to claim that Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India. Since these Tamil leaders claimed to be the true inheritors of the land, the idea of the common Dravidian theme never clicked with other states and language groups in south India. The “M” in all these parties stands for ‘Munnetram’—that is, the advancement of the Dravidians. Emphasising that Tamil is an independent, first of its kind Sanskrit-free Dravidian language, a link to the Indus Valley Civilisation is also claimed, further forwarding the idea that Dravidians are the subcontinent’s original inhabitants. In the contemporary scenario, with the demise of a cult figure such as CM J. Jayalalitha, this politics has taken an interesting turn. It remains to be seen how far the Tamil pride premise will sustain now.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
The article comprehensively delineates the inconsistencies of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu over the last hundred years. Another thing which cannot be ignored in any context of Tamil politics is the influence, or rather, the involvement of cinema. Over half-a-century, the Tamil people, avid cinema lovers, have seen film stars as gods and goddesses. This has had quite an impact on the public imagination, what with the formation of star-cults and to the phenomenon of star worship. With mega film stars joining politics and leading the state, the line between real and reel has become blurred over time. Thus, while the Dravida pride concept remains strong, cinema has managed to merge with it, turning the public and the politics of the state into an endless melodrama.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
Dravidian culture and Dravidian politics are two different things. One may argue that such is the relationship between culture and politics in every other state in India. But the elements of obsequiousness and sycophancy displayed by politicians in Tamil Nadu in relation to their leaders is a standout feature. Mass hysteria, be it in politics or cinema, is a uniquely Tamil phenomenon. Such hysteria has made it possible for the political class in the state to exploit the poor and the marginalised in many different ways, overt and subtle. The Dravidian paradox cannot be easily explained.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Cherthala
The anti-national "weapon” is not new, and none has used it more than the Sangh parivar.
Though your Leader comment Anthem & My Drink (December 12) was too caustic, I really wonder what prompted the Supreme Court to direct cinema halls to play the national anthem before the screening of films. During our childhood, the theatres used to play the national anthem at the end of the show. But people would hurriedly leave the hall, forcing the government to discontinue the practice. The usual mood in cinema halls is not conducive to playing the anthem. It should, instead, be made compulsory in primary schools, where children are more open to learning. If it is considered to be part of adult education, then government offices and institutions, too, should start the day with the national anthem.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
This refers to Plots of Gold in Chowringhee (Dec 19), your story on a new wave of Bengali filmmakers in Bollywood. I found both Pink and Kahaani 2 disgusting and depressing at the same time as they involved characters who were sexually assaulted, a child in the latter film’s case. How can that be entertainment? What, for instance, are we supposed to think and feel about the three young women characters in Pink?
Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum
It was shocking to learn from Buying Wombs and Babies (Dec 12) that it took the police as long as it did to blow the lid off a pretty kettle of fish. If three newborns could be rescued from a biscuit carton before the scheduled sale, there is life yet in the debate on the mushrooming of dubious nursing homes and NGOs. The crime has acquired a heart-rending dimension with mothers being told lies that they had given birth to stillborns, to steal their babies. Small wonder the NCRB data for 2015 reveals that with 1,255 cases, Bengal ranks second only to Assam (1,494).
J. Akshay, Bangalore
In your story on the Asaram Bapu case, I found the title—Seeing is a Deadly Sin (Dec 19)—itself to be biased. Where can we find reports that show both sides of the case? It seems the reporter is misinformed as nothing has been proved against Asaram Bapu yet. Moreover, the Jodhpur case involves misuse of the POCSO law as the alleged victim was over 18 at the time of the said incident. No sign of rape or assault is recorded in the girl’s medical report. Instead of throwing some light on the loopholes in the case, the media takes interest in tarnishing the image of a world-renowned saint.
Arun, New Delhi
An even deadlier sin is to be biased, judgemental and to spread hatred against someone. Why has not Outlook shared the other side of the story yet? Is it because there is no fame and money to be made in it?
Outlook’s cover story on secrets in the probe on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination made me look forward to it with interest (90 days On the Run or Let Loose?, Dec 5). But my enthusiasm died down after reading the pieces—practically no useful additional information has been added to those already in the public domain. Strong rumours lingering for the last 25 years—that Rajiv’s death involved some high-profile people (Adnan Khashoggi, Chandraswami) or a combination of the LTTE and Indian leaders—are not dealt with. So the cover story did not confront the main conspiracy theory.
Jawahar P. Sekhar, Calicut
I read with interest Outlook’s story on Sartaj Aziz’s presence at the Heart of Asia meet (Neighbour P Knocks Closed Door, Dec 5). Well, that didn’t go well enough for Aziz, slammed as Pakistan was in the meet for its terror links. The country is unique on this count, but it’s perhaps the only ’democracy’ in the region where the appointment of an army chief is considered a more vital issue than the appointment of an elected government. Actually, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was a dark horse all along. He has earlier commanded the infamous 10 Corps, responsible for guarding the area along the LoC with India. It is thus high time India stayed alert, for the new chief could escalate tension along the border.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
I liked the piece on Cho Ramaswamy (Cho Be It.Exeunt., Dec 19). I am a big fan of Cho for various reasons. For instance, his excellent English and Tamil skills, his political acumen and, above all, his undisputed talent in theatre. Cho’s dialogue in Tamil movies were always humorous and challenging. He has played a part in spreading political awareness through his movies and educating people through his celebrated magazine, Thuglak. His presence was much sought-after in Chennai. During my stay there in 2001-02 I saw many posters announcing his presence at some function or the other. Tamil society will miss his presence a lot.
P.S. Saravana Durai, Mumbai
It will be far-fetched to expect India’s poor—they form the country’s majority by far—to use plastic money when they have no cash at all and sleep on an empty stomach under open skies (Shocked, Awed, Stuck in Cash Limbo, Dec 5). The government should strive to weed out black money and eradicate the scourge of corruption before snatching currency notes from people. We aren’t a developed nation to run a cashless economy. Neither can such a paradigm shift happen overnight.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
While I laud the mission to flush black money out of the economy, it’s clear the government had hardly worked out the ways to counter the ensuing financial crisis (Bait in Black and White, Dec 12). The authorities don’t seem to have even anticipated the most basic of them. Possibly, a phased implementation of the idea would have been better. That could have been time-consuming, but it would have invited less problems. All the same, critics of demonetisation should realise the value of modernising an economy, a humongous task, and yet a necessary one, for India cannot stay behind. Politicising an RBI step can only work against the nation’s interest. Opposition parties should be constructive in their attacks against the government if they want to help in any way.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
Every banknote is backed by the RBI governor’s promise—and has no expiry date on it. How, then, can a prime minister suddenly indulge in a breach of trust and tell us that our currency is “as good as worthless pieces of paper”? In a battle with tax evaders, why should the Modi regime leave a tax-payer to suffer? I hope the Supreme Court considers all these aspects when it hears petitions on last month’s demonetisation. It’s a big step that should have ideally been preceded by a parliamentary debate. It can’t just be a fanciful scheme of a ruling party implemented overnight.
S.R. Devaprakash, Tumkur
A former prime minister launching a broadside against demonetisation was pleasantly surprising, coming as it did from a reticent person like Manmohan Singh. Manmohan’s remarks about an organised legal loot due to a ‘monumental financial mismanagement’ by the regime that succeeded his two years ago has exposed the ill-preparedness of Narendra Modi’s government. Manmohan’s prognosis needs to be taken seriously as he’s a top economist and he has predicted a two per cent slide in the Indian economy. Demonetisation cannot help recover unaccounted cash, as a chunk of it exists as gold and real-estate property, apart from money in offshore accounts. A referendum can bring an unambiguous ‘no’ about the advantages of the November move.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
It may take a few more painful, ‘cashless’ months before the people of India find out they were lied to by the government. It is already beginning to appear that demonetisation was all a drama to push people to use bank cards so they can be charged extra every month.
Sid Ehsas, On E-Mail
This is with reference to your cover story (90 Days On The Run Or Let Loose?, Dec 5). I am sure that apart from writing about it in her memoir, Nalini Murugan, one of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, must have shared her thoughts regarding the CBI’s plan to not catch Sivarasan alive with Priyanka Gandhi during their much-publicised meeting that took place way back in 2008. I am sure the information must have reached Sonia Gandhi, the widow of Rajiv. Then what prevented her from ordering a thorough probe, when all those years of UPA rule were still left, to unravel the real conspiracy related to her husband’s killing with the leads provided by Nalini. There is another issue that has not yet been resolved by investigations—an issue that finds no mention even in Nalini’s lengthy and insightful account. Nowhere does she mention how they got the information about Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Sriperumbudur. According to all accounts, it was a sudden visit and a considerable amount of time would have been required to draw up the assassination plans. His visit was a last-minute decision personally taken by him. Just a day before his visit, Vazhapadi Ramamurthy, the then Tamil Nadu Pradesh Congress Committee chief, had announced that Rajiv, their party president, would not be visiting the state until the elections were over. This means only a few people close to him, who would have been with him in Vishakhapatnam where he was on that day, knew about his plans. Even if one concedes that the LTTE is a super-efficient terror organisation with a track record of eliminating highly protected VIPs, it could not have planned such an assassination within a few hours of his arrival. Someone might have leaked this information to the LTTE to make the assassination possible. The obvious question to be addressed in this case is: Who’s that traitor?
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
Do you really think that Nalini’s defence counsel would not have been aware of the conspiracy around Sivarasan’s non-capture that she has referred to in her memoir? If not, why weren’t they told about it? The fact is that despite the skills of her counsels, who tried all the dilatory techniques of defence and exhausted all channels of redressal, Nalini Murugan was found guilty by the courts and handed a life imprisonment in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. If no such detail came out during the extensive trial that led to her conviction, one wonders why she has raised such questions after so many years of her sentence now. I’m of the opinion that this news will only create unnecessary confusion and controversy and achieve little.
M.C. Joshi, LucknowSince we are discussing unanswered questions here, let me raise the one we might have been ignoring for long. Remember the Jain Commission report—which probed Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination conspiracy—had indicted the DMK in its report. The UF (United Front) government was brought down by the Congress because of this in 1998. Sitaram Kesri, who was the Congress chief at that time, had withdrawn support citing the report. Later, Kesri was kicked out and Sonia Gandhi became the party president. In 2004, all seemed to have been forgiven as the same Congress aligned with the DMK in a bid to keep the BJP out of power. What is difficult to digest here is that Sonia Gandhi had no compunction about aligning with a party that was indicted by a judicial commission set up to probe her husband’s assassination.
Akash Verma, Chennai
No investigation till date into Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination has been able to unravel the ‘deep conspiracy’ angle. The threads of the case have always been mired in complex State politics. The lack of intent on the part of the CBI to nab Sivarasan alive, as brought out clearly by the extract from Nalini’s memoir, was only to ensure that the loose ends of the case are never tied up.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Your cover story made me think yet again about the whole IPKF fiasco. Just like with the Indo-China war, interfering in Lankan affairs was a Himalayan blunder. Rajiv Gandhi may have committed the big mistake because he relied on his backroom boys more than his external affairs secretary. According to some reports, the LTTE supremo, who had come to India for talks, was held captive and forced to sign on the dotted line of an ‘agreement’. The IPKF was sent to Sri Lanka for peace, but what ensued was an outright war in the Tamil areas.
V.N.K. Murti Pattambi, Pattambi
Just one fact is sufficient to prove that Justice Party members were British agents (Footprints Of The Original ‘Anti-Nationals’, Dec 12). This political outfit alone supported the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre and actually sought a similar counter to any agitation against the British Raj.
Akhil Verma, Chennai
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