World Classical Tamil Conference – A Different Perspective

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on June 12, 2010

Some days back the ‘perspective’ of our honorable CM Mr. M. Karunanidhi on the World Tamil Classical Conference was published in The Hindu. My article attempts to give a different perspective of the show.

Much hullabaloo has gone into this conference thing, which is to be held in Coimbatore between 23rd to 27th of June this year. The city is in a flurry of activity with posters, banners and hoardings here and there. Security has been beefed up big time and people joke that if you jerk your knee, you are bound to kick a cop. Possible ‘troublemakers’ have been kept in check, it is said. There is an artificially created air of festivity around the place. One can ask, why now?

Karunanidhi says that this is following their “success in getting the rightful status of Classical Language for Tamil declared and notified by the United Progressive Alliance government”. Those who have been following up this issue know that the ‘classical languages’ declaration was only a political stunt which was immediately replicated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Entering into a debate on the norms that make a language ‘classical’ is not the purpose of this article. Question is on the motive. The motive behind this stunt as well as the Conference is simple. The DMK wants to show itself as the patron of Tamil culture, display its passion for the language. A language does not exist in abstraction. It is concrete, linked with humanity’s productive activities. Passion for a language sans passion for the people who speak it is a sham. Is the DMK passionate about the Tamils?

One of the worst genocides in the 21st century was carried out against people who speak the very same language that Karunanidhi claims to be passionate about. And the massacre of the Eelam Tamils happened right under his nose. To say that he did not raise a finger against the genocide is naivety. Rather, he was complicit in the process. Arundhati Roy said in a recent meeting that the war against the Tamils was a war waged by Indian corporates – and quite some of these back the DMK too. With thousands dead, many more mutilated for life and even more interned in concentration camps, the timing of this celebration would seem odd. But the DMK needs it. It’s a strategy called damage control. Their image as Tamil custodians took a big blow with their antics during the last months of the war. Thus the conference to show that all is well, that Tamil is safe with the DMK.

In aesthetic terms, the Tamil ‘semmozhi anthem’ penned by Karunanidhi himself and composed by AR Rahman is plain insipid. You expect an ‘anthem’ to fill you with pride. This one is repugnant. Rahman is an artist whose music essentially caters to the senses of the Indian bourgeoisie – a class of the purest form of philistines. There is nothing ‘Tamil’ about Rahman’s music. There is a lot of heavy instruments, people screaming and weird sounds. You would wonder why would a leader like Karunanidhi who (claims to) takes pride in the uniqueness of Tamil culture employ such a person to compose music for a Tamil anthem. But that is the walking contradiction that is Karunanidhi and this is the woe that is Tamil Nadu society. Quite some people were surprised that SPB was missing among those who sang “Semmozhi yaana Tamizhmozhiya”. One should be rather happy that he wasn’t part of that pathetic cacophony. (His ‘Thaayaga Manne’ in Ellalan, recorded under most pressing circumstances, is any day a far more inspiring song for Tamil patriots than the ridiculous mélange of hi-tech instruments and lifeless voices that is ‘semmozhi yaana’). Of course, our own regional philistines went ga ga over the song.

In the anthem song, the line “Poarai puram thalli porulai pothu vaaka ve” – push the war aside and make things common – is ironic considering that the war in Lanka has pushed the Tamils into an abyss and their land and resources are being looted by people who don’t have an inkling of the word ‘common’. The lyrics reek of celebration. There is not even a hint of regret over the catastrophe that has befallen the Eelam Tamils. On the whole the conference appears to be a well choreographed dance of joy of the DMK over the graves of the Eelam Tamils. This is a cruelty even Rajapakse is incapable of.

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4 Responses

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  1. Ganga said, on June 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Nice article, Karthik. You have correctly mapped the ‘significance’ of the conference as staged by the DMK. The Senmozhi anthem is definitely a sham as well.

    Although, I find your brief reading of Arundhati Roy’s contribution in speaking against the Tamil genocide as slightly erroneous. Read this well written post that reveals Roy’s arm-chair activism: http://englishtamil.blogspot.com/2009/04/arundhati-roys-awakening.html

    • Karthik RM said, on June 14, 2010 at 2:10 am

      Thank you Ganga.

      Yeah, Roy did speak out against Sri Lanka’s crimes pretty late. Also, this is not an issue that she has given much attention to. But I dont think that can be held against her. I would say that she is under no obligation to speak for the Tamils -or for anyone else for that matter. It is her wish to do so or not. But the fact that she has spoken, no matter how late, is to be appreciated. And her voice does reach places! Let us not forget that among the Indian intelligenstsia, esp those who get media coverage, she has taken a fairly reasonable stand on the issue. The other ‘leftist’ chaps either toe The Hindu line or just look away. In this scenario, Roy speaking for the Tamils can only be an asset. It is in no way going to harm the cause. At this time especially the Tamils need all the friends they have.

      The world’s (especially India’s) popular ‘left’ intellectuals paid little attention to the Tamil issue while Palestine/Iraq/Afghanistan instantly arouses emotions. But how many of these chaps have spoken out strongly for, lets say, Manipur? Or Chechnya? Or Kurdistan? Heck! I havent even seen any of these prominent ‘leftist’ guys speaking about FARC! There many unspoken genocides that have happened/are happening in Asia, Africa and Latin America but only certain ‘glamorous’ ones (what glamour? We see the same tears, same corpses, same blood, same pain everywhere!) get all the attention. It could be plain vested interest, as it is with media mafia in India. Or it could be the intellectual trying to live up to the happening thing in her/his circle, some absurbd romanticising of some struggles over others. Or it could truly just be the lack of information. This is a sad reality in the world. Some tragedies will always appear more tragic than other tragedies. The oppressed will have to work through this.

      • Ganga said, on June 14, 2010 at 8:21 am

        Hi Karthik,

        I read your letter to Roy, her response and your reply here. I regret having commented on this post. Your politics and its concomitant reasoning (you employ) are sophomoric.

        //I would say that she is under no obligation to speak for the Tamils -or for anyone else for that matter. It is her wish to do so or not//

        You are right indeed! We should be extremely pleased that she opened her ‘glorious’ mouth and even uttered the word ‘Tamil’, while she could have still maintained her aura and halo, and let her fan boys continue bask in it. Oh, by the way, correct me if I’m wrong: Karunanidhi was under no obligation to help the Tamils in Srilanka.

        //This is a sad reality in the world. Some tragedies will always appear more tragic than other tragedies. The oppressed will have to work through this//

        You’re right again! We should send DVD copies of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ to the people in the concentration camps in Srilanka. That might put things in perspective.

      • Karthik RM said, on June 14, 2010 at 3:25 pm

        I am not saying that Roy is beyond criticism. But do you think that her current views are going to affect the cause of the Tamils in a negative way? Why reject a possible ally at time when friends are a scarcity? Sectarianism isnt going to achieve anything concrete.

        Karunanidhi is under no obligation to help the Eelam Tamils – rather, he requires that their struggle fizzle out and that the voices supporting them in TN be silenced. One reason among many being that the succesful completion of the multi-thousand crore sethusamudram project requires ‘normalcy’ in Sri Lanka. And all this while he projects himself as the ‘Tamizhina thalaivar’, using the resources of state and media to silence the other ‘Tamil’ voices or buy them out. I think the comparison between a corporate backed politician and an activist, ‘armchair’ or not, who does speak out strongly against holy cows of the Indian ruling class is rather unfair.

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