BJP’s Operation Dravida Nadu

Tamil Nadu’s people recognise the presence of BJP only in the era of social media memes. Since the communal anaesthesia is not working there, the caste issue is taken to aid its Dravida Nadu operation

Photo courtesy: BJP.org
Photo courtesy: BJP.org
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Jeya Rani

In recent days, one question about Tamil Nadu haunts intellectuals, journalists, progressives, political observers and social activists across the country. What is happening there? Why is it always in the midst of protests?

It all began with J Jayalalithaa’s death and M Karunanidhi’s inactivity. Both happened at around the same time. The silence of these two major personalities who exercised control over the two biggest parties of Tamil Nadu created a vacuum. The BJP’s bid to capture power by filling this vacuum with its national power has failed and that’s the reason for all the crises faced by Tamil Nadu nowadays. In the one and half years after J Jayalalithaa’s demise, every day has seen the creation of a new confusion. N Sasikala, who became the power centre after Jayalalithaa’s death, was confined in jail; raids were conducted in the houses of state ministers and the chief secretary; mediation was done between EPS and OPS and they were made CM and Deputy CM respectively; Bhanwari Lal Purohit was appointed as Governor and was given excessive powers; Tamil Nadu’s cultural sport ‘Jallikattu’ was banned; NEET was introduced dashing many students’ dreams to pursue a career in medicine; students who appeared for NEET were harassed; release of the seven convicts involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination has been delayed; farmer’s protests have been ignored; setting up the Cauvery management board has been delayed; PDS shops have been closed; state terrorism has been unleashed against the Thoothukudi anti-sterlite campaigners; farm lands have been grabbed for the Chennai-Salem green corridor project. And there have been many more.

For the BJP, which managed to grab power in states including in the northeast like a greedy emperor, the southern states remain a big challenge. In the south, the BJP struggles as its alliance with Telugu Desam party has broken down and it has faced setbacks in the Karnataka elections. Tamil Nadu continues to reject the party vehemently. The problems created by the Centre in these states raise a strong doubt as to whether ‘Operation Dravida Nadu’, as alleged by Telugu actor Sivaji, is being seriously implemented? ‘Operation Ravana’ for Tamil Nadu has ten heads. The Centre is creating trouble in agriculture, education, environment, welfare schemes and in almost all other sectors. Handling the ruling AIADMK like a puppet, the BJP executes its ‘Operation Ravana’ so openly. But still, Tamil Nadu is reluctant to surrender.

The people of Tamil Nadu recognise the presence of BJP only in the era of social media memes. Earlier, only people in Nagercoil and Coimbatore knew of the party. Even while aligning with Jayalalithaa in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP won only one seat. The AIADMK won 37 seats

To gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu, the BJP spends huge money in roping in the media, actors and for social media campaigns. It is believed that the sudden announcements by Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan to enter politics are part of the ‘Operation Dravida’ plan. But without spending a single penny, Tamil Nadu continues to wipe out all such plans with its ideological clarity. Leave alone parties and movements, here ordinary citizens themselves are anti-BJP. The fact is when Modi ‘mantra’ echoed strongly throughout the country, the BJP trailed NOTA in RK Nagar in Chennai. How was this made possible here? Hindus live in large numbers in Tamil Nadu too. Brahmins also live here. So do men. But in Tamil Nadu, unlike in northern states, it’s not easy to propagate Hindu fundamentalism, Brahminical hegemony or oppression of women on public stages. Even if Modi speaks in chaste Tamil or recites Thirukkural, his party’s principles are allergic to the state. In a country with many discriminations and fundamentalist ideologies, it is extraordinary that Tamil Nadu continues to exist and survive as a rational and communally harmonious state. The reason is very evident. One person was the reason behind this proud legacy. Periyar. Even after 45 years of his death, the Dravidian legacy that he had left behind forced the BJP to come up with ‘Operation Dravida Nadu’. Any political party that intends to find its ground in Tamil Nadu cannot do so without adding the word ‘Dravida’ to its name. ‘

‘Dravidam’ has a tradition and history of a cultured civilisation. ‘Dravidam’ is the ideology Periyar pitted against Brahminism. He believed that in a land which was destroyed by Brahmical ideologies, opposing the same is an ‘ism’ in itself. He explained to OBCs and SC/STs who constitute 97% of the population and were denigrated by Sanatana Dharma as sudras and panchamas (untouchables) that they were not the slaves of Brahmins but belonged to a separate ethnic group called ‘Dravidars’.

Periyar started a movement of self respect for those who were shamed by Brahminism. He declared self-respect as the seed for liberation. His progressive thoughts created revolutions in households. Women headed the movement. Spreading the rationalist thought was the point of discussion in tea shops. If you hear a labourer from rural Tamil Nadu speak rationalism, it is because of the unrivalled and pioneering work done by Periyar. Collection of his speeches and writings are spread over 10,000 pages. In Indian society, they are the fiercest anti-caste, anti-Brahmnical literature and the only parallel could be the works of BR Ambedkar.

He was a firm atheist and a rationalist, yet he respected the ideas of secularism and communal harmony and that formed the basis of peace in Tamil Nadu. Christians and Muslims took part in large numbers in Dravida Kazhagam conferences. He broke the myth that Muslims were invaders and explained that they were indigenous people who converted to Islam after having been at the receiving end of Brahminical oppression. Periyar encouraged conversion; he recommended Islam as an alternative to Hinduism. These two are important reasons for the hatred of Brahmins towards him. When Babri Masjid was demolished, the entire country witnessed clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Tamil Nadu stayed calm. The state had inherited that maturity from Periyar.

From accepting Marxian principles, to encouraging science and acknowledging Buddhism, the first voice of support would come from Periyar for progressive thoughts coming in any form. He was against Brahminism tooth and nail. Yet, no Brahmin was assaulted in any of his protests. Without any violence, Periyar, by spreading rationalism and knowledge, cleansed the brains which were polluted by religious thoughts.

But what do the Hindutva organisations in the country do? They harass the Dalit people and the Muslims by unleashing violence against them.

The people of Tamil Nadu recognise the presence of BJP only in the era of social media memes. Earlier, only people in Nagercoil and Coimbatore knew of the party. Even while aligning with Jayalalithaa in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP won only one seat. The AIADMK won 37 seats.

The BJP perhaps is aware of this bitter truth and hence it instigates clashes even while trying to gain ground here. Since the communal anaesthesia is not working in Tamil Nadu, the caste issue is taken to aid its Dravida Nadu operation. Amit Shah already participated in Devendra Kula Vellalar (sub-caste in Dalits) conference. He is going to conduct a Vanniyar (subcaste in OBC) conference this July. Political observers accuse the BJP of using its traditional ploy of creating caste animosity and gaining support. Its plan is to scatter the vote bank of regional parties. If Tamil Nadu, which has resisted all other attempts so far, gives into caste, it will lead to the historical blunder of making ‘Operation Dravida Nadu’ succeed. This is a warning to the state.

(Translated from Tamil by Kavitha Muralidharan)

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