Divided we fall
The deeply fragmented politics of Tamil Nadu is only detrimental to the people of the state who become pawns of power games
From the Jallikattu agitation onwards, political parties have in Tamil Nadu been asked to maintain distance from organised mass agitations. Theoretically, it is the duty of the political parties in a democracy to aggregate the problems of the people and articulate them in the authoritative bodies like the legislature and the Parliament for evolving appropriate decisions and policies. Other grievances of the constituents could be solved by the representatives by interacting with the officials. But, now, people are sensing that their problems are being politicised and comprehended from the party's perspective rather than the people's perspective. Apart from the above, the two dominant Dravidian parties who have been in power in the last fifty years are held responsible for the array of problems faced by the people – a result of the decisions made by both parties in the name of development. Hence, both parties resort to accusing each other on every issue.
Against this background, people have lost their hope and ask the parties to stay away from the struggle. The recent agitation held in Tuticorin turned violent on the 100th day and, as a result, more than 13 people were killed in police firing. Political parties have, again, started accusing the state government of its failure in maintaining law and order. People have organised agitations against the Vedanta group which produces copper in Tuticorin as a series of health problems have arisen due to the functioning of this industry. Now, it has been shut down as per the decision of the Government of Tamil Nadu. People who were involved in the struggle refused to accept the order of the government which will be challenged in the court of law as has occurred in the past. Even at this juncture, the company says that "temporarily we have stopped our production. We will resume our work after getting proper permission."
Scientific knowledge of factory functions is not common in everyday discourse. People from different organisations who participated to show their solidarity have reoriented the commonly understood ideas to intensify their agitation. Having expected violence in the agitation, the administration has clamped Section 144 in the area as per the court direction. It is a normal routine procedure that the moment the organisers violate the prohibitory order, they have to be arrested. But, instead of arresting them, they have been allowed to further their violence to the extent of blazing public property and, as a consequence, the police resorted to firing, leading to the death of over a dozen members of the agitating group. Now, the key issue has shifted gear to target the government for its inefficient control of the prevalent crisis. The key message from this event is that the political parties have lost the trust of the people. The political parties should have taken responsibility, struggled for the cause of the people and guided them based on scientific knowledge. Such mature politics is yet to evolve in Tamil Nadu. Instead of taking responsibility, the political parties went to the venue of the agitation, expressed their solidarity and extensively criticised the parties which ruled the state in the past five decades; soon after, they vacated the site. Even the parties who have shouldered the responsibility chose to move alone rather than moving along with the other parties in a concerted effort. To overcome the issues encountered by the citizens of the state, the parties have not taken any consolidated decision to resolve the crisis. Since there is no unified fight in Tamil Nadu, the ruling party and the industrial groups play a comfortable game of hide-and-seek to veil themselves.
Second, the civil society organisations which have oriented the agitating groups failed miserably to inculcate the powerful tool of non-violence evolved by Gandhi to successfully propel all agitations. Violence is the tool of the weak; non-violence is the tool of the determined. It is easy for the state machinery to handle the agitating mob when they engage in violence. Blaming the police will not solve the problem – finding a solution to the crises is more important.
At this point of time, Tamil Nadu needs all its political parties on board to tackle the crises. Across every front, Tamil Nadu faces hinderances. Villages are in deep crises that stem from environmental degradation and ecological imbalance. Natural resources have been depleted. All valuable natural resources are exploited beyond recuperation with the approval of the state. In this context, unless the parties are united and able to move beyond the colours of their orientation to save Tamil Nadu, a single party capturing power will hardly see the light at the end of the tunnel.
(The author is Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. The views expressed are strictly personal)