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Travesty of Democracy in the ‘Progressive’ Tamil Nadu

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The political drama that is unfolding in Tamil Nadu reveals the self-evident reality of the failure of democracy in our country. For the first time in 28 years, there was a trust vote in the Tamil Nadu, as Sasikala appointee, E. Palanisamy, sought a vote of confidence in the 233-member assembly, and won, after many machinations and despite opposition by other parties. The last several weeks have exposed the travesty of democracy being enacted in the treachery of the AIADMK MLAs who got easily sold to a CM-aspirant – Sasikala – whose family and associated local Mannargudigangs have had a reputation for spreading a reign of fear among legislators. Instead of the democratic, equal polity that the state is credited for, Thevar and Gounder dominance has been consolidated for several years during the AIADMK reign.

The only positive thing in the fast-paced developments is that, in a U-turn, the Congress, DMK and Indian Union Muslim had decided to vote against the Sasikala-nominee instead of abstaining, although, finally, DMK legislators were dramatically thrown out of the assembly on the day of the vote and the other two parties decided to abstain. The AIADMK MLAs were forced to vote in favour of Sasikala-nominee since it was not a secret ballot.

The political feud, within the ranks of the ruling AIADMK, started with the resignation of the ruling Chief Minister, O. Paneerselvam (OPS), who, later alleged that he was forced to resign by Sasikala and a coterie of powerful MLAs who owed allegiance to her. This – and the manner in which OPS cut a figure of a victim and of an Amma loyalist – worked in his favour. The public’s mood was already set against Sasikala, ever since the suspicious death of Jayalalitha, when it seemed that Sasikala exploited her closeness to the late CM to isolate her from every personal and official relation, and then, pushed her to her death. These and many other rumours abound, making Amma’s demise one of the biggest political conspiracies in recent times.

Glorifying a Dravidian Era of the Past

There are many other dynamics surrounding the personalities of Amma, Sasikala and OPS, which we do not aim to go into here. The point that we would like to highlight through the entire AIADMK controversy is that our political system – consisting, ostentatiously, of ‘secular’, Dravidian political units – has degraded so much that democracy has just become a tool to be manipulated by the elite at the time of elections.

We often live in, and glorify, the past. Our intelligentsia likes to talk about the anti-Brahmanical struggles waged by reformers like Naicker and how the rise of Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu, with the formation of the DMK, and of working class politics in Kerala, with the rise of the Left, has brought in social reform and a culture of democracy. Yet in all such states, we see a clear political and social stagnation. While the said gains were of momentary need and relevance during the 1950s, 67 years down the line, we need to accept that Time has eroded those gains to make way for new transformations and that we cannot set the political past in stone and continue to worship it irrationally.

For a state that prides itself on the Dravidian brand of politics and has a so-called good developmental track record, the collective political sense is extremely rudimentary. We need not look beyond a few immediate examples to see this. It is a state where movie stars have ruled the roost in both the dominant parties, DMK and AIADMK. It is a state where populism has been key to winning elections, with numerous outgrowths of items sold at low prices in the brand of “Amma”. It is also a state where it is acceptable to people that their popular leader should be convicted of possessing massive disproportionate assets, as long as she is acting Robin Hood and giving them some freebies out of the massive wealth she has amassed. And finally – something that is not acceptable to people but reflects the sham of democracy – we have politics where MLAs may or may not have been taken hostage by Jayalalithaa’s self-appointed heir apparent, Sasikala.

The track record of both the Dravidian parties has been summed up aptly by a Tamilian political commentator,

“What have we really lost under these Dravidian giants? The truth is that over the last two decades we have lived under fear. Whether it is the DMK or the AIADMK in power, in matters of freedom and citizens’ rights, they are not very different. We citizens are mortally afraid of taking them on, scared that goondas will physically harm us. The cadres of both these parties abuse their strength with great regularity and no police force will come to your aid. Tamil Nadu has been a dictatorial democracy for far too long.”1

The Need to Move Beyond the Dravidian-Aryan Divide

The Tamil politics of today – in which neither Congress nor the BJP could establish a foothold – is a product of the Aryan-Dravidian divide popularised by Left-leaning, Dalit and Western scholars since the Aryan Invasion Theory was formulated. In fact, even the idea of the word “Arya” denoting race is a purely European construction which has no support or basis in Indian tradition, with the colonial motive of accommodating Indians to the British rule by making it look as if they were long separated kinsmen. All these motives are now being conceded by British institutions themselves.

The theory held that Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India, whose civilisation was destroyed by the blue-eyed, fair-skinned Aryan invaders. The proofs cited for this theory are extremely weak – the Vedic texts where words like ‘Dasyus’, ‘Panis’ etc. are twisted to say that the Aryans used these words to refer to the dark-skinned Dalits. In reality, as Sri Aurobindo points out, “The word pani means dealer, trafficker, from pan and we may perhaps regard the Panis as the powers that preside over those ordinary unillumined sense-activities of life whose immediate root is in the dark subconscient physical being and not in the divine mind. The whole struggle of man is to replace this action by the luminous working of mind and life which comes from above through the mental existence. Whoever thus aspires, labours, battles, travels, ascends the hill of being is the Aryan…”.2

Similarly, the meaning of entire sentences has been inverted – frequent references to words such as ‘cow’, ‘ghee’, ‘yajna’ and the invocation of Vedic gods and goddesses and powers of Nature, have been deliberately inverted to ascribe mere ritualism to the Vedas, and to assert that Aryans were invading ‘barbarian’ hordes.

This invasion account from the 19th century – originating in the biases of European racism and anti-Semitism and German nationalism – is based not on any solid scientific evidence, but only vaguely drew upon theories of early human cultures and the then undeveloped field of comparative linguistics. It was without any proper understanding of Sanskrit that the Sanskrit-Tamil divide was posited by the invasion theory. Sri Aurobindo’s own study of Tamil led him to discover the “‘original connection between the Sanskrit and Tamil tongues’ and the fact that they were ‘two divergent families derived from one lost primitive tongue.’”3 This linguistic evidence was further corroborated by R Swaminathan Aiyar, who discovered the Indo-Aryan origin of Dravidian vocabulary. This in itself would substantiate that no outside Aryan invasion could have occurred.

Besides this, the core initial supports used by the theory – that Aryan invasion from Central Asia led to a decimation of the Dravidian Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro civilisations by 1500 BCE; the linguistic, cultural and racial differences between people of South and North India; and the references to dark-skinned people in the Rigveda – now also stand completely disproved. Not only was there no basis for saying that Aryan invasion took place around 1500 BCE and the Rigveda was composed around 1200-1000 BCE, but these dates were randomly used by Max Mueller through the convoluted logic of the then prevalent Biblical belief that the creation of the world took place at 9:00 AM on October 23, 4004 BCE.

This boils down to the fact that, “Assuming the date 4004 BCE for the creation of the world (as Max Müller did), leads to 2448 BCE as the date for the Biblical flood. Granting another thousand years for the waters to subside and for the soil to get dry enough for the Aryans to begin their invasion of India, we obtain c.1400 BCE for the event. Adding another 200 years before they could begin composing the Rigveda brings us right to Max Müller’s date of 1200 BCE. …he used a ghost story from Somadeva’s KathÀsaritsÀgara to claim support to this date.”4 Although later these claims on the composition of Rigveda were denounced by Mueller himself, our intellectuals conveniently ignored his later retractions.

These howling mistakes are, moreover, in addition to the small but other significant illogicalities in the theory. For instance, right from the original theory to its current manifestations, the Leftist and activists have been at pains to show that the multitude of Dravidians or Shudras were the original inhabitants of this land and were conquered by the few Aryans who invaded, and that the Shudras were more advanced intellectually (a notion that reigns powerful till date). Such statements ignore the basic facts – how a handful of invaders could conquer a multitude of people or how can the literature composed by a supposedly barbaric and unintelligent people reign so supreme in Indian history in such a comprehensive manner.

To all these basic errors in logic, the only response of Leftists and the vested political interests in India was to keep spinning one ingenuous conjecture after another. And like these early conjectures, the latest ones too are without a single factual or scientific basis. These modern intellectuals – the self-appointed bastions of justice – have also conveniently ignored the selfish motivations of the authors of the Aryan Invasion Theory like Max Mueller, who were completely influenced by the Christian spirit of proselytization (a*) and destruction of traditional Indian culture and religion, even though Max Mueller himself has admitted to this in his personal letters. (b*)

a* Max Mueller’s proselytizing aims were reflected in several of his letters. In one of his long letters to a Mr. Bunsen in August 1856, he expresses his hope that, “Whatever finds root in India soon overshadows the whole of Asia, and nowhere could the vital power of Christianity more gloriously realize itself than if the world saw it spring up there for a second time, in very different form than in the West, but still essentially the same.”5

b* In one of his letters to his wife in 1866, Max Mueller says, “I hope I shall finish that work, and I feel convinced, though I shall not live to see it, that this edition of mine and the translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India, and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what that root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung up from it during the last three thousand years.”6

 Other small but significant ‘evidences’ – for instance, the fact that absence of horse and rice at excavated Harappan site and their mention in Rigveda was proclaimed to say that Aryans invaded these early civilizations; but now even these stand discredited, as horse and rice have, indeed, been found at sites like Lothal, Mohenjo-Daro, Kalibangan and Rupor – are no longer valid. The various other ‘evidences’ like few skeletal remains, fortification walls etc. have also been disproved as none of these are found replicated in other Harappan sites – like Amri, Kot Diji, Harappa itself, Kalibangan in Rajasthan or Banawali and Rakhigarhi in Haryana or Lothal, or Surkotada or Dholavira in Gujarat – nor is there any evidence of any destruction or massacre of an alien culture.

Later archaeological discoveries have, moreover, unearthed a valley covering nearly a million and a half square kilometers, concentrated not around Sindhu or Ganga, but along the now dried up Saraswati – a mighty river mentioned more than fifty times in the Rigveda. Further, since the drying up of Saraswati has been conclusively established at 2000 BCE by advanced evidence from archaeology, hydrology, geology and radio-carbon dating, it is factually impossible to say that the Rigveda was composed in 1200 BCE, since they could not have paid such glowing tribute to a mighty river that had turned into a minor stream nearly five centuries before the arrival of the so-called ‘Aryan invaders’!

Thus, the scientific bases on which this theory can be disproved are, indeed, endless, making it clear that historians and certain vested interests constructed the Aryan-Dravidian divide on the basis of pure unscientific conjecture.

This has further been made clear in recent times, when in 2009 (through the use of low resolution genetic markers) and then in 2011 (through autosomes or all major 23 chromosomes), an inter-continental research in cellular molecular biology used DNA evidence to show that all Indians are of common origin. One of the lead team members concluded that, “We have proved that people all over India have common genetic traits and origin. All Indians have the same DNA structure. No foreign genes or DNA has entered the Indian mainstream in the last 60,000 years.”7 They also discovered that instead of an Aryan invasion, it was the Indians who moved from the subcontinent to Europe.

As soon as these latest scientific discoveries were made, they spelled trouble for the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, with mounting speculations that these parties will now need to latch on to a different reason for justifying their existence. Little do our modern commentators know that the demise of the Dravidian ideology was spelled in Tamil Nadu – and, by extension, in India – as soon as the DMK began to dabble in power politics as early as 1960s.

Playing Out of the Theory in Indian Political Landscape

In the Indian political landscape, even various Dalit leaders of credibility like BR Ambedkar have denounced the theory asserting that it is based on ‘inventions’ and is not allowed to evolve out of facts. “On the contrary, the theory is preconceived and facts are selected to prove it. It falls to the ground at every point.”8 Similarly, Swami Vivekananda’s declaration that if North Indians are Aryans then South Indians are no less Aryans has held the destiny of this nation’s future. What now remain of the discredited theory are simply the political subversions of it, which – as in the case of current Tamil Nadu politics – we find collapsing under their own weight.

In India’s political and cultural history, the theory has served, deeply vested political interests in the field of both academics and politics. This explains its persistence, till date, among certain intellectual Left-wing circles, despite the clear denunciation of the theory by modern sciences, spanning archaeology, evolutionary biology and genetics and by historians too. There were a number of forces that led to the theory gaining credence in British India, prominent among them being the intent of the British to promote antagonistic caste consciousness in the Hindu society, and the ill-researched dominance of the ‘race’ distinctions perpetuated to consolidate the supremacy of foreign rule. In the former case, the British got the tacit support of Dalit intellectuals of the time, like Jyotiba Phule, while in the latter case, the British played on the myth of the broader Aryan-European unity to use a racist justification with the intent of getting support of the moderate upper castes in India.

These forces have continued to play out in subsequent history, with the revival of the theory by Nazi Germany and in the Indian context, the full-fledged support it received in history textbooks, university studies, academic intellectuals and, most viciously, by political parties (DMK and AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu. In Tamil politics, the Dravida Munnetra Kazagam (DMK), Dravida Kazagam (DK) and the Justice Party were the earliest political by-products of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu, associated with the Brahmin-non Brahmin struggle, and dating back to the formation of the Justice Party in 1916. All the three parties were operated like social movements, based mainly on the Aryan-Dravidian divide and the discredited Aryan Invasion Theory.

However, it is relevant to note that, despite the strong ideological sway their principles held for decades over the Tamilian people, the present outcome is an abject failure and a mockery based on welfare dole-outs rather than Dravidian self-respect. It is important to analyze the reason for this failure.

In 1942, the DK was started with much fanfare by one of India’s leading Dravidian scholars, EV Ramasami Naicker, also known as Periyar, speaking about Dravidian self-respect and declaring that the Tamilian people adopt the use of the term ‘Dravidian’ to describe themselves and assert their independence from the Indian Union. However, as quickly as the movement had started it also fizzled out, leaving Naicker the hero of only Left-wing academics rather than a leader of the people. Naicker’s rise was curtailed by the ambitious rise of CN Annadurai and the DMK in 1949.

The rise of DMK, in fact, marked the beginning of the end of Dravidian ideology in Tamil Nadu; for, the party started out with the more ambitious agenda of capturing political power, both in the state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian Parliamentary elections, as well as in municipal elections. And although the DMK paid lip service to the idea of a ‘Dravidasthan’ independent of the Indian Union, this was undermined by the party’s political ambition, and so it could easily be arm-twisted by the Congress. As a result, by the mid-1960s, the DMK, and along with it, the Dravidian movement, had lost its separate identity and gusto, and had fully become a part of the mainstream Indian politics.

Against such a political landscape we can trace the death of the Dravidian ideal and the rapid failure of the Aryan Invasion Theory and a fizzling out of the anti-Hindi bias. Thanks to the ambition that crept into Dravidian parties, making them a part of mainstream Indian Union, the Aryan-Dravidian divide was effectively obliterated and only ineffective outer skeletons remained. Later, with overwhelming scientific evidence, even the Dravidian parties ceased to talk about it, and it became merely the stuff of Leftist historians’ hobby horses.

And though both the Dravidian parties continued to go strong and govern Tamil Nadu, even this is no longer acceptable to Nature’s evolution. Things have now reached a precipitating point in Tamil politics, and it is obvious that the time has come for even those skeletal outer remains of the Dravidian parties to disappear.

The Fading Away of the Dravidian Ideal

The death of Jayalalithaa has marked a sharp weakening of the remaining vestiges of the ideology of a separate Dravidian identity and a turning point in Tamil politics. The drama that played out between OPS and Sasikala and the subsequent control of the AIADMK by Sasikala’s nephew, Dinakaran, spells the end of AIADMK. Parallel to this, in DMK too, the time of Karunanidhi, the only remaining veteran and ideological leader of the Dravidian ideal, is now over. As his heir, MK Stalin, takes charge, it is apparent that DMK has also been reduced to petty politics.

Both the Dravidian parties, as already charted above, were already abject failures, but the difference now is that the reality has come out in front of the people. For years, there was goonda raj, and, in the name of sham equality and liberty and lip service to their Dravidian ideology, both the parties were promoting caste dominance of all intermediate castes – Thevars, Gounders etc. – instead of the Dalits. Tamil Nadu, much like Kerala, had become a state where fear reigned, and in the name of democracy, people could only choose between DMK and AIADMK.

But now, with AIADMK in disarray and DMK with a weak leader, both these parties will be reduced to the status of their corrupt regional party counterparts in other states, like UP, Bihar etc. Further, if BJP manages to take advantage of the present instability – which it is poised to do, the Congress never had a chance – then the political landscape will change even more rapidly. As it is, people are already voicing their disgust with present Dravidian parties. The Aryan-Dravidian ideological divide has long ceased to matter and the caste calculus in Tamil Nadu remains as multifarious and complex as in any other state. So there are good chances that Dalits may veer towards the BJP.

If this happens, as has been anticipated in the post-Jayalalithaa period, then there would be real chances of politics of Tamil Nadu becoming more progressive and competitive. With political change, real social changes will follow more rapidly. For, by now, the cases of both Kerala (with its status as a haven for Islamic terrorists and primitive political violence by the ruling Left) and Tamil Nadu suffice to show the utter futility of our so-called economic and human development theories and data. People are searching now for a real alternative; as, for far too long, they have lived in a system that was based on a false idea of democracy. The level of politics in UP might, in fact, be called a little better. With the era of the Dravidian formations and ideas passing away into oblivion, there is now a chance to see some real changes in the state.

References:

  1. Krishna, TM. 2016, Scroll.in, May 17, Accessed February 27, 2017, https://scroll.in/article/808272/why-do-the-two-dravidian-parties-have-such-a-hold-over-tamil-voters
  2. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.15, p.233, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
  3. Nair, Devan. 2009, Hindu Focus, October 14, Accessed March 1, 2017, https://hindufocus.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/what-great-indians-thought-about-the-aryan-invasion-theory/
  4. Rajaram, N.S, and David Frawley. 2001. Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization. Voice of India
  5. Paliwal, K.V. 2006. Max Mueller: A Secular Christian Missionary and Distortor of the Veda, Hindu Writers Forum
  6. Ibid.
  7. Chellappan, Kumar. 2011, Daily News & Analysis, December 10, Accessed March 1, 2017, http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-new-research-debunks-aryan-invasion-theory-1623744
  8. Nair, Devan. 2009, Hindu Focus, October 14, Accessed March 1, 2017, https://hindufocus.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/what-great-indians-thought-about-the-aryan-invasion-theory/
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