Take the case of a terrorist who does a heinous crime. Any normal civil society would ask for the most extreme punishment to the devil. But what happened in the case of Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan was the exact opposite. The hardened criminal that he had become, Veerappan was audacious enough to kidnap Rajkumar, a famous Kannada actor, and demand ransom like he did with various other people. He shot to notoriety by smuggling sandalwood and elephant tusks. He was ruthless in killing the forest guards and policemen.
But when the state wanted to take some stern action on him, his caste became an issue of debate. Political parties such as the one headed by a medical doctor espoused his cause and argued for a pardon to the saint – Veerappan. His story was serialised in a local Tamil magazine and he became part of folklore. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in a one of her heroic acts, eliminated him by engaging with him in a kind of deceptive combat. He was lured into a trap and was killed. Then, his wife became a hero and was the talk of the town later. She even formed a political party. I don’t know what came of the party.
Would this kind of madness, of eulogising a hardened criminal, happen in the democratic society elsewhere? I would think not.
The LTTE killed Rajiv Gandhi in cold blood. It denied its hand for many years until Anton Balasingham confessed to it in an interview before his death. Along with Rajiv, 23 other ordinary citizens of India were killed too. Just because the killers happened to be members of the LTTE – the so called saviours of Tamil – the terrorist organisation’s members had to dealt with kid gloves, claimed the chauvinists. The killers, even after 25 years of Rajiv’s death, are languishing in Indian prisons after clever lawyers helped them escape the noose. Now, it has become a fashion to sport the terrorist outfit’s emblems in public and claim the fight for a greater Tamil cause.
The January 2017 ‘protesters’ in the Marina beach, who were ostensibly fighting for an ancient animal sport, held out placards that had LTTE insignia. The ‘protesters’ held seditious placards that espoused secession from the Indian union, an old and un-intelligent call that even its originators abandoned in the late 60s. They had also shown thoroughly objectionable and crude messages against the nation’s Prime Minister, in completely base language that spewed with obscenity. So much for upholding Tamil, the classical language – what ever that is meant of the adjective.
Rev Robert Caldwell (1814–1891) sowed the first seed of secession with his ‘Dravidian Linguistic Unity Theory’. However he never concealed his evangelical intentions. He calculated correctly that once the southern languages are separated from the mainstream cultural unity based Sanskrit, it would be easier to reach the head count goals for which he had come to the country. Evidence for this is available aplenty.
His disciples carried forward his ideology and sanctified him in the annals of Tamil history. Now he has become an inalienable icon of Tamil hagiography. His evangelical intentions, however, do not eclipse his scholarship in Tamil. He took pains to learn the language and the many Bakthi literature ( eg : Thiruvachakam ) and became quite an expert in those. However, those that carry him in their higher scaffolds lack even the basic knowledge needed in Tamil to read and understand these Bakthi-era poetry.
The offshoot of Caldwell’s school of though was the dravidian separatist movement of the 50s. It proponent, E.V.Ramasamy Naicker, tried to enlist the Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam speakers into this ‘Dravidian’ channel and failed miserably at that. His protege, Annadurai, tried to carry this legacy, though a subdued one aimed only at the gullible Tamil audience, and abandoned it when Pt.Nehru threatened him with the new ‘Sedition Act’. Later Annadurai became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after committing to safeguard the Indian Union.
From then on, his protege, Karunanidhi, a screen play writer, and later a matinee idol M.G.Ramachandran became Chief Ministers in the same order. After the death of M.G.R, his screen pair and protege Jayalalithaa came to power in the state. The effect of all these was that the state had become the hotbed of movie centric madness. A stint in the movie industry became a path way to political power, with the result that, today every minor screen actor aspires to become the Chief Minister one day.
The supremacy of the show biz industry, easy access to power, excessive and unchecked flow of unaccounted money in the industry made sure that the persons associated with the industry were invincible. The ascendancy of people associated with cine industry to political authority led to lowering of standards in the educational scene. The screen stars who became political leaders began to believe in much of what they had mouthed in the movies. This resulted in empty rhetoric becoming academic mainstream. If one was able to deliver a mouthful of movie dialog without batting his eyelid, he was considered an academic and a person of erudition. Academic institutions became empty vessels that made the most noise, mostly unintelligible in nature.
Result : MGR, Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa and Sivaji Ganesan became ‘Doctors in Philosophy’, with each state run university falling over another in conferring these ‘honorary’ doctorates to the worthies out of which the highest educated one was a Class X pass out.
Leaving aside the assault on the national psyche, the damage that this did to the Tamil literary circle was enormous. That directly contributed to the speeding up of the downward spiral.
Annadurai, a former Chief Minister penned base stories like ‘Oru Iravu’ ( One Night), ‘Velaikkaari’ (Maid) and depicted not so honorable scenes in them. These were regarded as a sort of rebellion against the ‘brahmanical’ literature of those times. His protege Karunanidhi, a former movie script writer and three time Chief Minister, carried Annadurai’s legacy forward and helped bring down the standards of literature in general.
The one who wrote the most obscene of scripts and songs became the most talked about in town, was conferred with the most prestigious government awards with the result that a cartoonist of a local daily presented a scene where a garbage picker lays his hands on a multitude of awards dumped in a garbage bin.
Getting an award became tantamount to purchasing one.