‘Truer Dravidian or stronger Tamil nationalist? Hues of fight change,’ so reads the headline of an article that appeared in Times of India newspaper on November 10. ‘Political Debate Gets A New Twist with M K Stalin Joining The Clash of Ideologies,’ says the strapline of a longish piece of trash that basically compares, rather amateurishly, Chief Minister M K Stalin and Naam Tamilar Katchi founder Seeman.
Obviously, the writer has no understanding of Tamil Nadu politics, one presumes, as there can be nothing absurd than comparing a man who had rose up the ranks of a grand old party to become the Chief Minister of the State after holding several positions like Deputy Chief Minister and Chennai Mayor with a muckraker who is yet to win even a ward councillor election.
But when one is told that the writer, Jaya Menon, is the political editor of the newspaper and has been in that post since it was launched in Chennai more than a decade ago, it comes not just as a shocker but also as a revelation. The fact that a political editor could churn out an article like that having too many factual errors besides total lack of perspective on Tamil Nadu politics and a vicious motive speaks more about the management, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, which had obviously failed to find someone from the State – Menon is typically Malayali – to head its political news bureau. Though it may sound parochial to judge people based on their ethnicity, at times like this when false news of the State is propagated, such thoughts do cross the mind.
Leaving the identity of the writer aside for a moment, let’s look into the merits of the article. First, as told earlier, the basic premise is politically flawed as the NTK is no match for the DMK on any count and comparing the two leaders is nothing but blasphemy. Then, to start from the end, the writer says with authority, ‘Earlier, no questions were raised about the identity about the inclusivity of Tamil in Dravidianism.’ Is it so, madam? The overt suggestion she is making is that Tamil nationalism was invented by Seeman. So, she obviously does not even know that Seeman was generously allowed to use the title ‘Naam Tamilar Katchi’ by the descendants of a distinguished leader who once ran a party by that name.
Also, has the political editor heard about Ma Po Sivagnanam? Obviously, going by the article, she has no clue about the challenges that Ma Po Si had been throwing at the DMK and the Dravidian movement in his time. That last paragraph also says ‘Tamil is seen as exclusive from Dravidianism by a section of Tamil Nationalist enthusiast, including Seeman. This has kept the Dravidianism vs Tamil nationalism pot boiling.’ So, madam feels that Seem has set the political agenda for the State, which is now Dravidianism vs Tamil Nationalism. I can understand an academic visiting the State from a faraway university in Europe coming up with an erroneous conclusion like that but not someone who has been observing politics on a daily basis, not just as a commoner but a journalist. That too with more than a decade of experience as Tamil Nadu’s Political Editor of a leading English daily.
‘The NTK has set off a raging debate on social media that at times turned caustic captioned, ‘Dravidianism and Periyarism vs Tamil nationalism and Prabharanism,’ says Ms Menon, who perhaps believes that electoral battles are fought more on social media or rather wishes that it happens that way. The point that she repeatedly makes is that only Seeman, whom she says is ‘emerging as a potential, if distant, rival,’ is the lone opponent to the DMK. Poor political editor seems to have not looked into the State Assembly. Also, she could have explained how ‘distant’, at least for the sake of those not much familiar with Tamil Nadu politics, to understand the situation better. Then, she goes on, ‘the DMK, its followers, fans of former DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and Periyarists have all joined in the new ideological battle…’ First of all, what is that fans of Karunanidhi, madam? Then, were all those people whom you have listed were disintegrated and divided before Seeman came on the scene? Why could not you just call them as those subscribing to the Dravidian ideology?
Then, Ms Menon has found out something: ‘It is a new Dravidian narrative that is taking on the Tamil nationalist and their hero Prabhakaran.’ What is that new narrative, she could have explained but she does not because there is nothing like that. She just says that the narrative was to retaliate ‘a sustained anti-Dravidian campaign launched by the NTK backed by its band of Tamil diaspora..’ It is tragic that the political editor is not aware of the fact that the anti-Dravidian campaign is older than her. It started right during the days of Periyar E V Ramasamy and has not abated even now. Seeman cannot be credited with launching the campaign, even by any stretch of imagination. However, to give the devil its due, Ms Menon makes one point very clear ‘the NTK backed by its band of Tamil diaspora.’ Yes, most of Seeman’s supporters, who are active in social media, which perhaps Ms Menon closely follows, live abroad and many of them are of Sri Lankan origin. That they write in Tamil does not mean that they are going to vote for him in the Tamil Nadu elections and make him win someday – they can’t.
She claims ‘Seeman gets scholars to talk about Tamil theology, philosophy and sociology.’ May we please know who those scholars were and what their credentials in academics are? Madam does not elaborate because she is obviously clueless. ‘The party aims to beat the DMK in its attempt to keep the Dravidian world view as the real social justice movement,’ avers Ms Menon. This, madam, is not being attempted for the first time, it has been happening ever since the Dravidian movement captured the imagination of the people.
Okay then, what is that the DMK launching its own ‘Tamil sentiment’ strategy? That Ms Menon does not seem to know that the DMK, since the days of C N Annadurai, has been always doing precisely that is nothing but a shame on Bennett, Coleman & Co. The naming of the Madras State as Tamil Nadu and bringing in a legislation to ensure that the State followed the two-language formula in education were just the beginning. Was Ms Menon not around when M Karunanidhi organised the Classical Tamil conference at Coimbatore just to show off his love for the language? Were they not ‘Tamil sentiment’ strategies?
True she has referred to some questions that the NTK has been raising against the DMK. But does not she know that the BJP, the AIADMK, the Communists and the Congress have always raised the same questions at some point or the other? Okay, could you please, madam, cite an instance of Seeman ‘stoking the debate that has drawn in senior DMK leaders, including Stalin.’ The DMK has several electoral rivals whom they are fighting and please understand, at least for the benefit of Times of India readers, that NTK is not at all considered a worthy rival. Seeman is just seen as a muckraker.
Then, madam, could you please explain why you mentioned Stalin spending Deepavali with the Narikorava community in the article? Also what the intellectual and ideological warfare on digital media that you are referring to is. When you mentioned ‘intellectual’ did you have Sattai Duraimurugan in mind, or was it Seeman? Also it is intriguing as to why you dragged DK and its leader K Veeramani into the debate.
Anyway let me answer one question that she has raised: Why has the NTK chosen DMK to be its enemy. Elementary, Ms Menon, one, the DMK is in power and two, Seeman’s operators, wherever they are based, want just that to be done. I hope that as a journalist of long standing you are aware of it. But then, you want to join ranks with the likes of Seeman to belittle the DMK and the best way was to reduce a political giant Stalin to the level of a pigmy Seeman.
Of course, we are aware that the DMK is an anathema not just to Seeman and other political parties like the BJP and AIADMK. Every non-Tamil residing in the State has that problem. Whatever those people from other States do here, they think the DMK is basically a party meant for the Tamil people and hence their interests could be jeopardized if it rules and also becomes powerful in the political terrain. Otherwise, why should Malayali journalists – there are too many of them in the Tamil Nadu media scene, which I am not elaborating here – find Seeman, who speaks discriminately against all non-Tamils living in the State, including Narikoravas, to be a great politician worthy of being compared to the ruling Chief Minister? Those journalists are pretty confident that Seeman, even if he captures power, will not introduce something like an inner line permit for outsiders to work in the State.
Malayali journalists know that Seeman’s Tamil nationalism is just humbug. But only wish that at least he defeats the DMK. The result is a half-page trash in the Times of India.
(The author suffers from delusions of grandeur, which is evident from the nom de plume, but has his feet firmly on the ground while keying in drivel like this)