Letter to the Generation that Knows Politics only as a Joke

– Dhipthi Dona J, III B.A English

More rational reasons than jallikattu to be a proud Tamil

Dear political enthusiasts who brood, “Why our politicians aren’t like the ones in the West?” (i.e before Trump),

Before drooling over Bernie Sanders (for his idealistic socialism), Trudeau (for his liberal outlook), Hilary Clinton (for her history in office and the prospective first female POTUS tag), Obama (for his welfare schemes and the ‘cool’ factor) and wishing we had someone like them running our government, how many of us have paused to look at our own backyard? How many of us are aware of what the Dravidian politics stands for? Why were they formed? From where did they originate?

While the rest of the country was under the impression that Swaraj (home-rule) alone was the solution to all the miseries of the people, the people of Tamil Nadu were led by a visionary who believed that unless (wo)men were empowered with self-respect and dignity, no Raj could save them. The Self-Respect Movement is what we as a generation would call highly ambitious, thanks to the kind of national politics we have been exposed to. This ideological agitation brought to the center the population that had once been shoved towards the margins, and in a few cases, refused to be acknowledged as worthy enough to be provided space within the boundary.

The movement managed to subvert the statistic of how for every ten government posts held by Brahmins, (who were ironically a minority, consisting only 3.2% of the whole Madras Presidency) not one went to the non-Brahmins. This reflected the distressing state of the 96.8% of the total population  and the college students graduating from the Presidency formed a meager 22.5%. By the time other states woke up to this reality and upper-caste dominance became the pan-Indian tale, Tamil Nadu had long established a State legislative assembly proliferated by the middle class and became a State thronging with first generation graduates who had found their way into schools and colleges, breaking the shackles of caste, religion and other superstitious practices.

Not all along did the rivalry in the political realm of the State witnessed politicians being suspended in resorts or prospective heads of State claim that the spirit of their late leader accused another of murder. In fact, Tamil Nadu is a state where parties bifurcated owing to ideological differences while the leaders continued to maintain civility and friendship throughout their tenures. The first such divide took place when Periyar E.V Ramasamy wanted to continue with the agitations and protests to eradicate biases rooting from caste, gender and religion in the social, political and economic fronts and pressurise the Center for an independent state, while C.N Annadurai believed that participatory democracy would be more effective, as changing the system from within would be simpler. The former foresaw that the party would abandon its ideals in the pressure to garner votes amidst the electoral madness and the latter remained oblivious to the fact that the Dravidians formed a miniscule in the larger picture of the Central government. Irrespective of the political disputes between the two leaders and the ultimate bifurcation, both the visionaries and their cadre stayed true to the ideals of the non-political Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) till their last breath.

Led by CN Annadurai, Tamil Nadu became one of the first states to break away from the control established by the Centre. It achieved the mammoth task of overthrowing the rule of the Congress party in 1967 and no matter of how relentlessly the national parties have tried, Tamil Nadu is the only state they have never once been able to enter the political scene of.

In this land of self-respect marriages, where financial aid was provided to not just promote inter-caste marriages but also to widows (who were in a lot of cases young girls being forced to marry elderly men) to find their way through all the chastisement and taboos, politics was not always a joke. Tamil Nadu’s political movement didn’t just determine its people’s identity but also directed them towards a state of awareness. It equipped its citizens with the rationality to look past religion, caste, superstition and elect an atheist as their leader way back in 1967 (exactly two decades since the country was divided on religious differences), putting the welfare of their state above the 328 castes, 138 gods and close to 128 dialects that surprisingly didn’t divide them.

 

In as much awe and shock as you,

A proud Tamil for all the right reasons.

 

 

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