WHEN UDHAYANIDHI STALIN DECLARES that he wants to eradicate Sanatana Dharma, we need to take him seriously.
It is a purpose-driven statement and an expression of intent. Both are backed by copious practical precedents having a vintage of more than a century. The precedents stand on the edifice of a concocted ideology which has all but obliterated the socio-cultural fabric of Tamil society.
The ideology wears the garb of Dravidianism and rationality but the yarn that has woven it is the millennial Christian missionary project aimed at eradicating Sanatana Dharma from the land of its birth. And the missionary apparatus has made no secret of it. The eradication project operates by dismantling different components of Sanatana Dharma by isolating each component from the whole.
Arguably, the Dravidian ideology, whose most powerful political face is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), counts as the greatest success of this missionary project. What makes it extra-lethal is the fact that this success is entirely invisible—no one ordinarily associates DMK with Christian missionary activity. And the party as such does not engage in this activity. Yet, DMK, committed to its Dravidian ideology, has de-Hinduised Tamil society and culture far more effectively and with greater speed and success than the missionaries. And this de-Hinduisation has accelerated after Independence. It has occurred through a multi-pronged dismantling: the statist usurpation of Hindu temples and mathas, the demolition of Sanskrit education and language and a dogged persecution of Brahmanas. In fact, the decadal exodus of Brahmanas from Tamil Nadu began with the fatal Communal Government Order passed in 1922. It was one of the first great triumphs of the Justice Party’s violent street action. For the next three-fourths of a century (and counting), the Brahmana exodus was a recurrent phenomenon of Tamil society. A recent example of the psyche that operates behind this forced evacuation is available in the statement of R Rajiv Gandhi, the DMK spokesperson who in 2022 declared: “If we… had done what Periyar told us back then, we wouldn’t have had to struggle with Brahmins for justice, rights, education and equality. Three per cent of you [Brahmins] are still dominating some areas.” R Rajiv Gandhi’s reference was to an inflammatory speech delivered by EV Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar) in 1973: “Wherever we see a temple, we must go inside and break all the idols inside. Wherever we find a Paapaan [pejorative for Tamil Brahmanas], we must kill and destroy him… If one non-Brahmin Tamil dies while trying to kill one Tamil Brahmin, only three of us will die out of every hundred. Ninety-four per cent of us will still remain but Tamil Brahmins will be eliminated. We will definitely go to this level.”
A clarion call for Brahmana genocide.
Then there were countless other instances of ideological hooliganism that occurred over the same period.
Smashing the murtis of Pillaiyar (Ganesha) across Tamil Nadu in 1952.
Garlanding the photo of Rama with footwear and publicly burning his images.
Torching the copies of the Manusmriti, the Ramayana, and the Indian Constitution.
All of these are clear, practical deeds of eradicating Sanatana Dharma by choking the sources of the countless perennial streams that had nourished and nurtured it in Tamil Nadu.
And all of these were frontally led by EV Ramaswamy Naicker or directed by him. And all of these are celebrated as glorious milestones in his career. Even a casual perusal of the Collected Works of Periyar E.V.R. compiled by K Veeramani is stunning to say the least. The same K Veeramani was also a distinguished speaker at the Sanatana Abolition Conference held three days ago in which Udhayanidhi made his loathsome statement.
The misguided, ill-informed and spurious defence that Udhayanidhi has freedom of speech to call for the eradication of Sanatana Dharma amounts to endorsing his call. The foregoing historical precedents unambiguously show that intent translates to practical action through the intermediary of speech.
EV Ramaswamy Naicker’s prolonged career of Hindu hatred—in both theory and practice—was singularly unoriginal, to put it charitably. He disguised his hatred for Sanatana Dharma by openly targeting the Brahmana community because it was a vulnerable target.
In the compilation of EVR’s works, we notice him expressing the “natural” outrage he felt each time he saw society instinctively respecting Brahmanas. The source of his outrage is found in more than three centuries’ worth destructive missionary work in Tamil Nadu—this corpus supplied the fodder that shaped EVR’s unoriginality.
Beginning with Roberto de Nobili (1577- 1656) up to Bishop Robert Caldwell (1814-91), this missionary enterprise worked to penetrate and convert Tamil Hindu society with a focus and tenacity that evoke admiration.
Robert Caldwell, regarded as the ideological founding father of Dravidianism, was a fanatical missionary. His 1856 book, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, the Bible of Dravidianism was built on the foundation of another missionary, Constantine Beschi (1680-1747). Beschi first forayed into Tamil language and linguistics and seeded the process of isolating Tamil culture from its protective embrace of Sanatana culture. A measure of his lasting impact is available in the statements of the leaders of the nascent Dravidian movement in the 1920s. They lauded him as an exemplar of a European who had been “impressed by the sophistication of the Tamil languages as to make great efforts… to master it.” (Politics and Social Conflict in South India)
But decades before Caldwell published his infamous treatise on Tamil grammar, he had learned hard lessons as a grassroots missionary. He initially identified the toddy-tapping ‘caste’, the Shanars (now, Nadars) for conversion and published a book in 1849 titled The Tinnevely Shanars. It met with a hostile reception at the hands of the English-educated Shanars who “who disliked his ascribing a non-Aryan origin to their group” (Politics and Social Conflict in South India). Retribution was swift. They launched mass agitations against the book, which led to rioting and culminated in Caldwell withdrawing it from circulation. This is how Caldwell lamented in his Reminiscences: “There was one peculiarity of the Shanars which I found as time went on of great advantage to them. I found them constantly endeavouring to improve themselves and make progress, both intellectually and in social position.”
This history of Dravidianism is one of the clearest practical demonstrations of the power of destructive ideas translated into macabre reality. In this case, it has been the erosion of the best elements of Hindu society and culture in Tamil Nadu
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But Caldwell was a quick learner. Thus, instead of targeting specific Hindu communities, he struck at the very roots—the Tamil language. Thus, his Comparative Grammar aided by the fledgling but phoney Aryan Invasion Theory, was the first work to delink Tamil from Sanskrit. His proposition was straightforward: Sanskrit was brought to the Tamil land by Aryan Brahmin colonisers from north India, who destroyed a pre-existing, “pristine pure” Tamil- Dravida culture. This proposition had no basis in history or the lived realities of Tamil culture but had enormous political potential. Its basic instinct was purely Abrahamic—of instilling a superiority complex premised on the supremacy of the Tamil language to the exclusion of everything else. Entirely consistent with the Abrahamic notion of the “Chosen People” and variants thereof. Till date, this is the most potent weapon in the Dravidian quiver.
Small wonder that Caldwell is revered as Appa (father) in Dravidian mythology. In 1968, a year after DMK captured political power, a 1936 Tamil biography of Caldwell titled Kaltuvel Aiyar Saritam (A Biography of Master Caldwell) was made a prescribed textbook at Madras University.
But once Caldwell’s myth was solidified, things moved at breakneck speed. By 1910, a voluminous pile of theoretical literature premised on Caldwell’s separatist hypotheses had become pervasive in Tamil Nadu. Unsurprisingly, this theoretical corpus also extended to all realms—most notably, to literature and especially to the Ramayana. It was recast as a story of evil Aryans invading the pure Dravidian land and slaughtering its culture and society.
In 1909, a Dravidian ideologue named Sundaram Pillai seeded a theory about the Ramayana which has pretty much been canonised in Dravidian mythology. The theory was developed into a full-blown essay by his close friend, T Ponnambalam Pillai. Titled ‘The Morality of the Ramayana’, it first appeared in The MalabarQuarterlyReview (VIII, No2, June1909). Itcharacterisedthe Ramayana as a biased work that “proclaim[s] the prowess of the Aryans and to represent their rivals and enemies the Dravidians, who had attained a high degree of civilization at that period, in the worst possible colour… The Rakshasas though identified with the Dravidians, had never… existed but had been created by the Aryans.”
This essay is the primary source of EV Ramaswamy Naicker’s slurs against the Ramayana and all its characters that Hindus worship. It is also the theoretical edifice that informed his vandalism of Rama’s photos, etc.
A century after Ponnambalam’s essay appeared, Anand Neelakantan’s novel, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished, developed the same theme to upend the Ramayana story, in which Ravana is the hero.
It is nothing short of phenomenal that just half-a-century separated the publication of Caldwell’s book and the founding of the Justice Party. And six years after that event, the Communal Government Order was passed, leading to the exodus of Tamil Nadu Brahmanas.
This capsule history of Dravidianism is one of the clearest practical demonstrations of the power of destructive ideas translated into macabre reality. In this case, it has been the erosion of the best elements of Hindu society and culture in Tamil Nadu.
The swift and appalling de-Hinduisation of Tamil Nadu is a story that needs fuller retelling.
Notwithstanding Udhayanidhi Stalin’s flip-flops after national outrage, a core element remains. Realistically speaking, it is difficult for us to expect him to know the full history of his own party’s ideology. Thus, it is equally doubtful whether he realises that the Dravidianism he espouses is a missionary project that continues to deploy a section of Tamil Hindus as human weapons against their own society. Nor does he realise when he calls for “eradicating Sanatana Dharma” that the tongue is his but the language and grammar are that of the missionaries.
This is also why Hindus—not just in Tamil Nadu—need to take him seriously. His statement is an existential threat.
It is also a great tribute to the resilient spirit of Hindus in Tamil Nadu that they have come out in such large numbers to condemn Udhayanidhi Stalin to the extent that he is clearly rattled.
The scope of my limited studies in this area points to a conclusive answer: that Dravidianism is the biggest obstacle blocking the resurgence of the true potential and genius of Tamil Nadu, one of the most Sanatana-ised states in India. More than anybody, the missionary apparatus is keenly aware of this truth
Sandeep Balakrishna is founder and chief editor of The Dharma Dispatch. He is the author of, among other titles, Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore and Invaders and Infidels: From Sindh to Delhi: The 500-Year Journey of Islamic Invasions. He has also translated SL Bhyrappa’s Aavarana from Kannada to English