Karunanidhi is gone. So, it appears, is the DMK’s pride in its rational politics. If Stalin becomes chief minister, Tamil Nadu is bound to see a proxy political war developing between the forces of Hindutva and Tamil and Dravidian cultures.
The DMK’s manifesto, the first after the death of Karunanidhi, is a godly delight. Take a look at these points from the assembly election manifesto:
*Cable car facilities will be provided in hill temples including Tiruttani, Sholingar, Tiruvannamalai, Tiruchi – Rockfort and Thiruchengode
*The salary of village temple priests will be raised to Rs.2,000 and pension to Rs.4,000
*Rs.1,000 crore will be allotted for the renovation and consecration of Hindu temples.
*Archahars who have undergone proper training and waiting for more than 14 years will be appointed as Archahars
*Rs.25,000 will be given each to one lakh persons to undergo pilgrimage tour to famous Hindu temples
*To promote caste and religious goodwill and friendship, an international centre In the name of Vallalar, would be setup to propagate the preachings of Arutprakasavallalar
*Rs.200 crore will be allocated for the repair and maintenance of mosques and churches in the state
*Bus terminals / boarding houses with latest facilities and other infrastructure for visiting people will be built in spiritual towns like Palani, Tiruttani, Thiruvannamalai, Srirangam, Nagapattinam, Kutralam, Nagore, Velankanni, Vadalur
Stalin’s manifesto pays tribute to the DMK’s commitment to Dravidian, Tamilian, Dravidian-Tamilian culture/philosophy as well:
*Ask Centre to declare Tirukkural as a National Book.
*To ensure that Tamil alphabets are used by one and all in a uniform and approved form and style and prevent use of styles in whimsical manner by individuals, suitable legislation will be enacted
*A new law requiring all industrial establishments in Tamil Nadu to provide jobs to the extent of 75% to Tamils only
*An incentive of Rs.1000 per month will be given for rearing of Jallikattu bulls.
*To celebrate pongal festival, folk cultural functions and sports events will be held in all cities, towns and unions
*A memorial and historiographic hall will be erected in Chennai for the founding stalwarts of Dravidian Movement
The cause of nationalism appears ever close to Stalin’s heart as the depth-less manifesto makes two more promises:
*A statue for Pollan, who was the lieutenant of Dheeran Chinnamalai, a great freedom fighter at Erode and a statue for Kuyili who was a close aid of Veeramangai Velu Nachiyar, and who died in Valour (sic) by becoming a human bomb and destroyed the British Weaponry
*Statues will be erected in Chennai for the great freedom fighters of Tamil Nadu Veerapandiya Kattabomman and Maruthu brothers who had lost their lives in their fight against the British rule
BJP will whip up communal passions
The BJP, ever-ready to any which way find its way into Tamil Nadu, will use the DMK’s presence to whip up communal passions, Tamil chauvinism and project a clash between Hindutva and Dravidian cultures. That is its creed and it will not change its colours. A party which could dare to change the colour of Thiruvalluvar’s clothes to saffron and try project him — like it tried in the case of Sri Narayana Guru, the father of Kerala’s secular and social fabric, on another occasion — as a Hindu saint, can go to any extent. The Hindutva politicians could not digest the fact that anthropological excavations from the Keeladi site in Tamil Nadu further distanced Dravidian history from Hinduism.
In fact, Thiruvalluvar has been often dragged into controversy over his family, religion, mother tongue, date of birth and what not. He has been called a Tamil, a Dravidian, even a Jain. Hundreds of years after his death, people were shown a painting and told this is what he looks like. The BJP was always at the fore-front of Hinduising the saint. Yet, Tamils cutting across all distinctions view him as their moral and cultural icon.
The saffron party will start looking for such friction points in the next five years to homogenise Tamil Nadu, seeking to make Hindutva the only cultural currency. The DMK, with its rationalist outlook – always misinterpreted as atheism by the Hindutva party for political gains – will undoubtedly provide the opportunities.
Every time the DMK attempts to fulfil the above poll promises, there will be a confrontation the BJP will engineer.
The DMK loves a political fight and it is to be seen if Stalin – if his party actually wins the elections – will provoke the communal and chauvinistic forces by raising a controversial issue: When is the Tamil New Year Day?
Karunanidhi, with one eye on promoting Dravidian culture and politics, had in 1971 issued an order as chief minister that January 15, Pongal day, will be known as Thiruvalluvar Day. Since then The Thiruvalluvar Year is being used in state documents. Karunanidhi ensured that his action was backed by “Tamil scholars”, in the broadest term of the phrase.
“Thalaivar (Karunanidhi) did not change the date on his own. At a conference in 1921 at Pachaiyappa’s College that saw the participation of more than 500 Tamil poets and researchers like Maraimalai Adigal, Thiru V Kalyanasundaram, or Thiru Vi Ka as he was called, the birthday of Thiruvalluvalluvar was agreed upon as January 15, the day after Pongal,” said Dravidian historian K Thirunavukkarasu. (The Times of India, June 9, 2017)
Tamil New Year Day
When the scholars next wanted Karunanidhi to shift the Tamil New Year Day to the first day of the “Thai” month (January 14) instead of the usual first day of “Chithirai” month (April 14), the DMK don acquiesced, passing the Tamil Nadu New Year (Declaration) Bill, 2008 and making it into a law. The AIADMK, upon return to power in 2011, promptly cancelled it.
Karunanidhi passed an order to this effect in 2008, but it was cancelled during the AIADMK regime which came to power in 2011. Since then, the Thai-ers are considered to subscribe to Dravidian ideology while the Chitirai-ers are considered the Tamil religious scholars. The former claim that the new year was celebrated on the first day of the Thai month till 2nd or 3rd century CE, leaving it unsaid that Sanskrit thereafter began to influence Tamil culture that resulted in the new year date shifting to April.
In January, 2017, Stalin, the then working president of the DMK, presided over a Pongal function and promised that Pongal Day would be declared as Tamil New Year day when his party next came to power.
Stalin was quoted in The Times of India as having said: “I would like to convey categorically that at the time of the dawn of our regime…we will see Pongal being celebrated as Tamil New Year Day as well and that would happen for sure.”
However, that particular promise is missing from the DMK’s 2021 manifesto!