LET US FACE IT. Sanatana Dharma vs Dravidianism is an unequal fight. Sanatana Dharma is much more than a political ideology, whereas it is doubtful if Dravidianism will survive its political defeat and uprooting.
Is that why Udhayanidhi Stalin’s anti-Sanatani remarks have been dealt with kid gloves—and hardly any blows— by India’s print media. No surprise that foreign print media outlets, which habitually highlight the negative treatment of minorities in India, have failed to mention Stalin’s call to exterminate Sanatana Dharma.
But why is it that from A to Z, we find that Indian print media platforms have failed to take Udhayanidhi’s anti- Hindu remarks seriously? What they have preferred, instead, is to cover the BJP response to Stalin. This is in contrast to what we find on TV channels or, even more so, YouTube podcasts, which have been much more critical. The most vocal and unsparing criticism has come, of course, from social media. What accounts for the reticence of Indian print media to condemn even the most hateful and hate-mongering aspects of Dravidian politics?
I think the simple answer is the hangover over the so-called secularist ideology which placed an interdiction on any condemnation of anti-Hindu statements , as opposed to zero tolerance for minority bashing. As to a robust defence of Hinduism, that was out of the question. Barring a few newer outlets that have emerged over the last decade or so, most established newspapers and magazines are helmed by the old guard, oversensitive to any accusation of communalism. How to prove one is not communal? By allowing criticism of Hinduism but not of other religions.
However, this is not the appropriate time or space to examine how the Indian media reacts to the criticism of different religions. Rather, we should turn our attention to Dravidian politics, with its history of separatism and anti-Sanatanism. Both have flourished through the double standards, if not duplicity, of Dravidianism, its ruling ideology. Therefore, instead of defending Sanatana Dharma, as BJP leaders have tried to do, it might be a better strategy to attack Dravidianism itself. The next elections, in 2024, should therefore be fought not on the merits of Sanatana Dharma but on the demerits of Dravidianism.
The attack on Sanatana Dharma must thus be seen not at face value, but as part of a larger ploy. That is why it makes much more strategic sense for BJP not to defend Sanatana Dharma, especially when the attack on it is politically motivated, if not philosophically shallow. They should, instead, attack Dravidianism itself, as a pernicious ideology that has imprisoned the hearts and minds of many in Tamil Nadu, only as a way of maintaining the wealth and power of one family. It should not be difficult to argue that Dravidianism, besides being divisive and irrational, promotes enmity rather than equality, domination rather than social justice.
Take Udhayanidhi Stalin’s analogy of Sanatana Dharma to dengue, flu, malaria, and corona, now worsted by A Raja’s likening it to HIV and leprosy, not to mention that it should be eradicated like these diseases. No matter how narrowly or incorrectly Sanatana Dharma is defined in such usage, the comparisons are still odious, insulting, and hurtful. Can the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) take the plea, as Udhayanidhi did later, that his remarks were distorted and that he is against all religions?
Not really. If that were the case, DMK should also be able to say that Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, or, to come closer home, Dravidianism itself, is akin to dengue, flu, malaria, corona, HIV, or leprosy. Will they dare to say it? Obviously not. Why? Not only because these religious and ideological communities will not take such insults lying down, but also because their target is only Hinduism or, to be more specific, Hindutva, which is seen as BJP’s political creed. Dravidianism, then, is a cloak to attack Hindutva.
One need not go so far as to show other contradictions. For instance, Udhayanidhi’s mother, named after one of India’s greatest and most cherished goddesses, Durga, who is also a devout, temple-going Hindu. Or his own and his grandfather’s, and the names of other members of his family being of Sanskrit origin. Or that his brother-in-law, who is called Sabareesan, which means the Lord of Sabari, that is Sri Rama. The latter, tasting the jhoota or spit-smeared berries offered by a Dalit such as Sabari, was defying whatever we might associate with casteism today. Similarly, quite contrary to its professed atheism, most of its leaders and cadres are devout worshippers of Hindu gods and goddesses. Karunanidhi himself, originally named Dakshinamurti, came from a family of temple servitors. Till his last days, he was known secretly to worship Lord Ganesha, his favourite deity.
Take Udhayanidhi Stalin’s analogy of Sanatana Dharma to dengue, flu, malaria, and corona. No matter how narrowly or incorrectly Sanatana Dharma is defined in such usage, the comparisons are still odious, insulting, and hurtful
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Speaking of names, what can be stranger, if not monstrous, than naming one’s progeny after one of the greatest despots and mass-murders of our times, the “man of steel” (for that is what Stalin means), who ruled the former USSR with an iron—or shall we say steel—fist for nearly 30 years, from 1924 till his death in 1953? Stalin, besides brutally and mercilessly murdering political rivals and opponents, was reportedly responsible for killing 20 million Soviet citizens. As if one Stalin in the former Soviet Union were not enough! Now, there are two Stalins at the forefront of Dravidianism, Chief Minister MK Stalin and son, Udhayanidhi Stalin, minister for youth welfare and sports.
Dravidianism, as an ideology and political movement, has been marked by caste hatred, anti-Brahminism, irrational hostility towards Hindi, Sanskrit, and north Indians, as well as instances of brutal oppression of Dalits. In breaking idols, garlanding Hindu deities with slippers, and calling for the killing of Brahmins, it has fostered an apparatus of bullying and terror so that its opponents are cowed down and frightened into silence or passivity. In that sense, far from being egalitarian and equitable, it is dictatorial in addition to being dynastic.
Its irrationalism is evident in altering the names of streets, supposedly to erase the Brahmin caste markers, while appropriating all kinds of honorifics to its own leaders and surnames. Moreover, wiping caste names is not the same as wiping out caste. Or, more pertinently, foregoing reservations. Which it has championed even among converts to Christianity, thereby undermining its own argument that only Hinduism equals caste. Grabbing and retaining power rather than social justice seem to be its real objectives. Scapegoating Brahmins, a community that does not usually retaliate, only shows its cowardice in that it prefers soft targets to really strong adversaries.
Similarly, indecency and misogyny, rather than women’s equality better characterise its treatment of women, from the very days of its ideological founding father EV Ramaswamy Naicker. How can we forget that it was Dravidian cadres who tore the upper garments of J Jayalalithaa, who later wore full body suits and armour to avoid such molestation, even after becoming Tamil Nadu chief minister? Finally, its record of oppressing the Schedule Castes and Tribes is possibly worse than that of the Congress governments that it replaced. In brief, instead of moving with the times, Dravidianism shows itself ossified and incapable of reform, let alone criticism.
Dravidian separatism is also well-documented, with maps of Dravidistan freely circulating right till the 1960s. In fact, one of the reasons that C Annadurai separated from Naicker was that he did not want Tamil Nadu to secede from India. Naicker, we might remember, in addition to supporting British colonialism, even sought MA Jinnah’s support in his attempts to split India.. During the Round Table Conference in London, the representatives of Dravidian parties argued against granting India Dominion Status and in favour of separate electorates.
Later, DMK became well-known for backing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), to the point of asking for the release of the murderers of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Even today, in DMK-ruled Tamil Nadu, portraits of Prabhakaran, the LTTE supremo, don the same walls, side by side withthe Dravidian pantheon of Naicker, Karunanidhi, and Stalin.
Dravidianism’s central plank, that of the racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural conflict between Aryans and Dravidians, has also now been dismantled on almost all counts. Its anti-Sanskrit, anti-Hindi, anti-north Indian politics has also ceased to be as relevant today as it once was. Not knowing any other language has proved to be an economic handicap rather than a matter of pride for Tamilian youth, especially when they leave their home state.
The contradiction between the movement’s original ideals and the ground realities in Tamil Nadu underscores the need for a direct attack on Dravidianism. Rather than defending Sanatana Dharma, the time has come to attack Dravidianism itself for protecting and promoting a family fiefdom much to the detriment of the development and progress of the people of Tamil Nadu. Its vaunted rationalism is evidently the mask of the deepest form of prejudice. This is how the proponents of Dravidianism ought to exposed at both the state and national levels.