Saturday, September 08, 2012

Have Tamils completely lost it?

With all the disclaimers on generalizations in place, this post is about the people of Tamilnadu. I wonder if Tamils have lost all sense of proportion and have become so unreasonable recently, that an intervention is needed.

Not a day passes without some sort of racial provocation against Lankan citizens in Tamilnadu. Lankan soldiers on routine training missions with their Indian counterparts, football players and even pilgrims visiting religious places in TN are routinely being harassed or attacked. All this apparently to protest alleged atrocities on Lankan Tamils, during the anti-LTTE military operations in 2008-09.

While my personal stand on the internal conflict in Lanka is almost entirely pro-Sinhalese, I still fail to understand how racial attacks against the Sinhalese visiting Tamilnadu are going to help the Lankan Tamils.

Last year, Tamils were all worked up on the Mullaiperiyar dam issue. If you don't already know, the Britishers built a dam on the Periyar river to divert water to districts in Tamilnadu. Periyar river originates and flows entirely in Kerala with some negligible catchment area located in TN. According to the deal, the Travancore Kingdom leased the dam land (for rent) to the British for 999 years!! And rather incredibly, Kerala again agreed to the provisions after talks with TN in 1970.

However, when Kerala built the Idukki dam downstream, this deal should have been revisited and the lease nullified in exchange for assurance on water. Having missed the bus, some elements in Kerala are raising the bogey of dam safety to wrest back the control of Mullaiperiyar. Common sense demands that the political leadership in TN, talk to Kerala and find an amicable solution. Instead fringe elements in TN were allowed to shape the discourse. They even threatend to disrupt food supplies to Kerala (yes!!) in response to mostly imaginary attacks on Tamils in Kerala.

Now to the Koodankulam protests against the nuclear plant. To put things in perspective, Mumbai and Chennai, two among the most populated cities in the world, have experimental nuclear reactors. And Tamilnadu is notoriously short of electricity. But the illiterate people in tiny villages near Kudankulam were demanding that the multi-billion dollar nuclear plant be abandoned for their safety!! No amount of assurance from scientists, officials or even former President Abdul Kalam was enough for them. Anyone who read newspapers would have immediately realized the hand of Christian missionaries, who were provoking illiterate people to gain clout and converts. Instead of ignoring the protests, Tamils (especially the media) played footsie to the madness.

Tamils also made a huge hue and cry sometime ago, when Lankan Navy shot few Tamilnadu fishermen for allegedly venturing into Lankan waters. Any fisherman from Tamilnadu will readily admit that they venture into Lankan waters and steal the fishery which rightly belongs to Lanka.

Fishing boundaries are disputed across the world and routinely resolved at the local level. India and Pakistan release arrested fishermen every other week. However, its not reasonable to expect such courtesies between TN fishermen and Lankan Navy. Tamilnadu fishermen infamously helped the Tamil Tigers to terrorize Lanka for over three decades. And Lankan Navy has a duty to protect its marine resources from TN fishermen out to steal them. But Tamils in TN made a hue and cry nevertheless. And nobody cared about the Lankan Tamils, who without major economic opportunities, desperately need to exploit their seas.

While Tamils have historically been an aggressive people, prone to violence (read poetry from sangam to the bhakti era), their energies had been channeled into more fruitful social causes in the 20th century by the leaders of the Dravidian movement. (Indian) Unionist tendencies of the Congress helped too.

Whatever economic progress TN has made since independence is largely due to street mobilizations on social justice, linguistic federalism, (anti-brahmanical) religious rationalism and later competitive welfare politics (cheap state transport, school mid-day meals, free power for farmers, universal PDS). But the recent descent into racism and isolationism cannot have good consequences.

2 comments:

kranthi P said...
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