On Tamil 'regionalism'

Context (you can skip it):
Sometime last year an acquaintance had asked my opinion on this piece: http://www.popmatters.com/column/from-yugoslavia-to-south-india-the-rise-of-tamil-turbo-folk/

I had known this guy (Kumuthan Maderya) before through another friend who mentioned a shitty book chapter he had written. He just came across as a complete idiot with an attitude of a dickhead. Fret not, it was all a coincidence, this guy is not all that widely known. He's just eking out a living dishing out niche sub-par academic garbage that people wouldn't find worthwhile to contest -- as many arts and humanities PhDs without a tenured position do.

Anyway, I wanted to leave a comment countering some of the asinine conclusions he had arrived at -- on the Dravidian movement and Tamil nationalism -- while trying to make a claim that was even more so. He promptly got my comment removed and I forgot about it. But the whole reason I wrote that comment was so I could use that as a placeholder for my views on the topic. So republishing here.

On Tamil Chauvnism or Regionalism

“Among the most prominent in the Indian body politic, Tamil language zealots mobilized public support for self-determination through exaggerated fears of cultural genocide under North Indian hegemony.”

I don’t care much for the article except for this ridiculous, ill-informed, prejudicial statement. It’s as if the author didn’t learn anything from MSS Pandian or Ashish Rajadhyaksha, except that quoting these names would render a faux scholarliness to an article that is mostly bullshit.

It is as tiring as it is common to come across writings that are devoid of any socio-historical understanding of the political demography of the subcontinent. It’s also equally frustrating to see people parade simplistic majoritarian views of a (united) nation and its purported virtues juxtaposed against the ills of ‘regionalism’. The author conveniently forgets the fact that the state of Tamil Nadu – a state with its own unique history and language not unlike any major European country – was de facto ruled as ‘India’ by the British empire and the independent ‘India’ wanted to whitewash it by imposing homogenized identities on it primarily through the agenda of a ‘National Language’ in the form of Hindi. The so called chauvinism was an organic opposition to an undemocratic, authoritarian decree by the ruling Congress government post-independence.

The above scenario was no different from this: Germany wins world war-2. A century passes, Nazis get diluted and gradually disappear (or there’s Gandhi 2.0 to make it happen). They’re replaced by a government that’s ‘voted in’ by all of Europe but run mostly by Germans, and one fine day they figure it’d be easier to run the ‘country’ of Germope (well, the Germans renamed Europe) if it had one national language of, guess what, German! If the English or the Spaniards protested against this, they’ll be dutifully labelled ‘language zealots’, ‘chauvinists’ and ‘separatists’. Because, you see, Europe was mostly Christian, there are old books and shit that make references to parts different parts of Europe as if it were a singular nation etc. Besides, united is always better than separated. No exceptions. Status quo is always better. Also, bigger is better.

Only bigots and nationalists (btw, if nationalist doesn’t sound insulting, how about fascist?) would even try to slander any campaign for self-determination. It’s amazing how some of these people casually categorize calls for self-determination as guided by “exaggerated fears of cultural genocide” while the status quo would be anything but.

It’s the worst kind of farce when insular status-quoists try to masquerade themselves as progressives or worse, revolutionaries.

©2009 english-tamil