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The unwavering statesman

The unwavering statesman

Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the oldest statesman of the Tamil nation and multiple times Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, will complete 60 years in his public and political life, this year. In 1957, he was first elected as a DMK MLA to the Tamil Nadu assembly. In Delhi media and in Anglo-Hindi imagination, he is an old man, a corrupt and nepotistic dinosaur who is not in touch with today's fast moving times where people are expected to give up their own language and identity for progress and assimilation. In the Indian Union parlance, this means, sacrificing being Tamil, sacrificing being Bengali, annihilating being Kannadiga and instead becoming an Anglo-Hindi tricolour individual who can move seamlessly between Delhi, Bengaluru, Gurgaon, NOIDA and Mumbai. We are living in incredibly sad times. And, in these times, Kalaignar is no random old man.

He is not a domesticated animal of the Delhi zoo. He was perhaps somewhat bent but nevertheless an untamed Tamil. If the Tamils had their complete sovereignty, he would surely have been a world leader today. And with it, Tamil cultural space, something he was very close to, would have found its rightful place in world culture, as an expression of its people. Many chief ministers of non-Hindi states reflect an eloquent and deserving stature, yet, the world at large, will never come to know of them. Sovereignty, or specifically, the lack thereof creates this insurmountable glass ceiling. Unfortunately, the officially dictated ideology tells you constantly that to be Tamil and nothing but a Tamil is bad (similarly for all non-Hindi states). He was a part of the political ideology that empowered Tamils to dream about their own destiny, something that is a natural divine right given to a conglomerate of people. He has assisted the Tamils, preventing them from becoming the latest wholesale subject of those furthering the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan ideology with relentless force. He is a Tamil giant among Hindustani pygmies. He was the legendary Tamil mass leader C N Annadurai's lieutenant. He is the living embodiment of a plain fact that has been obscured to the point of invisibility; that Indians are not a Nation, that the Indian Union is a multi-nation Union, that these constituent nationalities must actively propagate any idea of India, that the Indian Union is an arrangement, and that, the nationalities within the Indian Union do not necessarily need New Delhi. Instead, New Delhi needs them.
The Dravidian movement with its stress on the rights of the mother language and an unwavering principled position against the Indian state sponsored Hindi imposition has affected the lives of non-Hindi people like me and our entire generation of Bengalis. If it were not for the likes of C N Annadurai, M Karunanidhi and the millions of Tamil youths they political directed during the legendary anti-Hindi protests of 1965, Hindi would have been the sole official language of the Indian Union.
We Bengalis would have become third class citizens of the Indian Union and not the second class citizens as we are at present due to the English-Hindi twin official language policy. English provided a lifeline to upwardly mobile non-Hindi citizens when New Delhi wanted to close all avenues of progress for them. That struggle, which ought to have been fought by all non-Hindi people, was fought by the Tamils, for the benefit of the rest of us. And they were led, among other people, by Karunanidhi.
How can we ever forget this, especially at a time when New Delhi does not want us to remember 1965. It does not want us, non-Hindi people, to remember the ideals of 1965 because the ruling Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan forces of New Delhi have started another linguistic war against us by a renewed savage enthusiasm for Hindi imposition. Especially at this historical juncture, how can we forget Karunanidhi, who set the dream higher for Tamils by demanding that Tamil be given the same official language status that Hindi comfortably enjoys. By doing that, he raised the bar of imagination and politics, something which we have not been able to reach even today. It is a dream, a dream deferred but a dream still very alive.
For the Tamil nation, fiscally, politically, economically and culturally, the Indian Union is hardly a profitable deal, but, it is the reality. Karunanidhi along with Annadurai was at the forefront of that tactical and subsequently ideological adjustment to the superior might of the Delhi establishment. They had steered the DMK into the Indian republic's political mainstream where talk of independence was taboo. Thus, Karunanidhi fought on as the defender of Tamil national rights and the great defender of Tamil national interests at every instance when Delhi wanted to forcibly encroach into State rights by expanding the domain of the Union. In doing so, Kalaignar may have fought for his own people, but that fight held back Delhi from decimating the prevailing federal structure.
I may not be a Tamil, but today Bengal's State government has certain rights, because Karunanidhi fought for his people and thus, fought for the rest of us, who were unfortunate enough to not have a guardian for our people as Karunanidhi has been to the Tamil nation. States who are today under constant assault by Delhi, which wants to encroach on our turf by luring states with a few extended crumbs from the Centre, might do well to remember his words - "Naanstatilayirukkiren. Centre vendam (I am in the State, I don't want the Centre)." He is one of our own.
In an Indian Union, where social disruption is a cancer inflicting the body politic of the Union, where systematic Hindi imposition aims to destroy the rights of language, culture, autonomy, independent dreams, imagination and the possibilities of the non-Hindi nationalities in the Union; that geriatric man on a mechanised wheelchair, is still the non-playing captain of the Union wide team that strives to defend the federal structure of the Indian Union.
In the Anglo-Hindified Indian imaginary, the speaking Tamil and only speaking Tamil leader of the Tamil speaking population may appear like an anachronism from a hoary past. But for hundreds of millions of non-Hindi people, with overt and covert dreams of equality and dignity, Kalaignar Karunanidhi is a warrior for future peace.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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