Tamilnadu Politics

I have had a nomadic, apolitical upbringing. I have appreciated logic, non-emotional and non-judgement way of life. I grew up in various SBI Officers’s quarters i.e. Orissa, Mumbai, Chennai and in Pondicherry. Also stayed briefly in the US in and around Berkeley. Then moved to Mumbai, Bangalore and then back to Chennai. I have never been passionate about Politics. I have voted only once in my entire life at Mumbai 4 years back and the candidate lost! In fact looked down upon it during my college days and continue to do so :-) I have always believed that the entire world is one country. An utopian or naive way of life. But over the last few years, I have come to terms with the fact that having been exposed to democracy as the way of life in the places I have visited it is important.  As part of work, I even participated in the Mobile SMS campaign for BJP as part of the last elections (in other words spam!)

I have always wondered why lots of my India friends have taken appreciating US politics more than India. Why the India TV channels create drama. Always admired the way students and people in US supported and had a view on the politics of its country. They way the US presidents talk, the UK House of Commons functions and why Indians mostly take up to yes-manism, chair throwing, buying votes. Pondered very briefly, Why can our representatives sit down as statesman and fix the real situation? And never get lost in who shouts the most and not have structured discussions. Whether if we were a dictatorship, India might be a better place to live :-) The statement from my physics professor who helped me prepare for IIT exams always comes to my mind when I think of these things : Thank God Physics doesn’t behave as democracy does. (He would ask a spot poll on what people think the answer is and the majority of intelligent people came up with wrong answers! ;-) )

Off late, Tamilnadu has been in the national news over the last few months. Main items have been the 2G scandal (which I don’t think is a scandal! Apparently Time lists the scandal as the biggest one after Watergate!!), AIDMK wining the state elections, Eminent fall of the DMK and now the Sri Lankan war crimes associated politics that have been affecting the Indian Nation. I think everyone should watch the video Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields  on youtube first before forming an opinion.

Anyway, the reason I decided to write this post was, I was not sure how do I get started to know or even started comprehending the political situation in Tamilnadu. And the best way I thought was history. But, I am very lazy when it comes to reading books and taking the effort to have a fact based opinion. Partly because at a gut level, I don’t care in my heart but my mind accepts I need to get educated! Its like if you are an engineer you don’t care about sales but for the success of the company sales is very important function! I happened to pick up a copy of Frontline (Jan 25, 2013 Issue) during my travels across india in Jan, Feb and Mar and it had very interesting articles about Tamilnadu politics and its history. Would love to discuss with some people who understand this more but just thought will blog it away for later reference.

The last article is very relevant to the current news that has lead the DMK to withdraw support from UPA and current TN Government deciding not allow Srilanka players to play the IPL while also making a resolution today to push for Sanctions, Trade Embargo against Sri Lanka and declaring that Sri Lanka is not a friendly nation to India. Though these developments are primary political in nature, the actions are being taken as a good portion does reflect the mood of the state. I think one should also see the movie Iruvar (also Aishwarya Rai’s debut movie?) to get a feel of the political climate then when AIDMK was founded. The rise of Jayalalithaa is also an amazing story, which I still don’t understand.

Tamil Eelam (A survey in late 2008 by the Tamil Nadu daily Ananda Vikatan found 55.4% of Indian Tamils in the state supported the separation of Tamil Eelam, while 34.63% supported a federal Tamil Eelam) is only point on which Tamilnadu stands together and no party wants to be seen lacking in terms of actions against it. Some quotes from the last article Tamil Nationalism – Then and Now:

The frequent references in Tamil Nadu and outside to “Tamil nationalist” and “Tamil protectionist” movements by leaders of the Patali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and other political parties are confusing and misleading.

These terms were initially used in the context of the struggle for Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. But their use in the context of Tamil Nadu calls for explanation. The concept of “Tamil nationalism” was initiated at the end of the 19th century mainly to protect the separate identity of the Tamil language. When a false impression was created that the pan Indian culture was Sanskrit, a section of educated Tamils asserted the point that Tamil culture was distinct from Sanskrit culture and demanded its independent recognition. This was followed by the non-Brahmin movement of the non-Brahmin upper castes (who identified Brahmins with Sanskrit) against Brahmin monopoly in education and employment in the first three decades of the 20th century and by E.V. Ramasamy Periyar’s Self-Respect Movement since 1925 and the Dravidian movement thereafter.

The non-Brahmin movement of the Justice Party founded in 1916; the Justice Party’s rise to power in the 1920 elections to the Madras Legislative Council through the “communal electorates”—a major outcome of its non-Brahmin movement; the Self-Respect movement founded by Periyar in 1925 with his long-term goals of establishing a rational egalitarian society; C.N. Annadurai’s acceptance of Periyar as his leader in 1935; their work together for the next 14 years when they changed the course of Tamil culture, politics and society, with Periyar more on the campaign side and Anna on the culture side; the related groundswell and efflorescence of the Dravidian movement from the 1930s to the 1960s; Anna’s entry into the Justice Party in 1935 when it was in its last gasp, which, as he revealed later, was “to convert the party of the affluent into a democratic and socialist party”; the Justice Party unwittingly facilitating this radical change by naming Periyar as its leader in 1938 when he was in jail for the anti-Hindi agitation.

Anna and Periyar together transforming the moribund Justice Party into the Dravidar Kazhagam (D.K., or Dravidar Federation) in 1944, laying the foundations of Tamil cultural and political nationalism in the province; the rupture between Anna and Periyar in 1949 when Anna left Periyar and the D.K. and founded the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or Dravida Progressive Federation); Anna’s election to the Rajya Sabha in 1962, even as the DMK graduated to become the principal opposition party in the Madras legislature; Anna’s demand in his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha expounding his goal of an independent Dravida Nadu (Dravidian country), which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected in the House later; the Sixteenth Amendment to the Indian Constitution, which proscribed advocacy of secession and the DMK’s decision to drop its Dravida Nadu demand, all should be seen as precursors of the DMK’s rise to power in 1967.

Anna, after he became Chief Minister, used power to achieve the goals of the Dravidian movement, of Dravida Nadu. He named Madras State Tamil Nadu, enacted the progressive legalisation of self-respect marriages, which was central to Periyar’s Self-Respect Movement, encouraged inter-caste marriages by awarding gold medals to such couples, and, daringly, abolished Hindi as a mandatory subject in government schools.

Anna pleaded with the Centre for a constitutional realignment in favour of the States, and believed that India could play an international role when Indians “are socially integrated, economically self-reliant and work out ostensibly what can be federal and State subjects”. Anna’s DMK pioneered the advent of regional parties in India’s polity, providing a safe and democratic outlet for regional aspirations within a united India and the espousal and accommodation of linguistic cultural nationalism in India’s complex plural ethnic and religious mosaic.

After the breakup of the DMK in 1972 when film actor-turned-politician M.G. Ramachandran formed the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK), later renamed the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the political landscape of Tamil Nadu spawned many new parties, each for the promotion of a single caste, mainly to gain from the loaves and fishes of public office, have a share in the State’s caste-based power play and a larger slice of the cake in its caste-based reservation politics.

The PMK is a product of this caste-centred political churning. Its single-point political agenda has fostered the Vanniyar caste, first through the family of its founder, Dr S. Ramadoss, and then through “Vanniya Nadu”. For this, Ramadoss has been doing a Bal Thackeray in Tamil Nadu by appropriating what he fantasises as Tamil culture and Tamil nationalism, crying foul that “Tamil culture is in danger” without understanding the heterogeneous and palimpsest nature of culture, which is of multiplex complexity in a caste-ridden society.

The upshot of the power play and factional politics in the State is the conflict between the Scheduled Castes and the intermediate castes. The non-Brahmin movement was successful in highlighting Brahmin domination in every sphere of public life. The Brahmins retreated tactfully. It was a slow process. In the face of the social mobility movements of Dalits and their legitimate aspirations for a higher and better place in what is increasingly seen as a secular and not a caste society, that too after centuries of subjugation, sections of the so-called “intermediate castes” such as Vanniyar, Mukkulathore (Thevar, Maravar, Agamudayar) and Goundar, who once tried to move up the caste hierarchy by claiming Kshatriya status through Sanskritisation (briefly, imitation of Brahmin behaviour), are unwilling to yield social and political space to Dalits as the Brahmins did from the 1940s to the 1970s. (These castes were not really intermediate in the traditional fourfold Varna system but at the bottom of the hierarchy of the Sudra castes and are “intermediate castes” only now in relation to Dalits; Dalits were outside the Sudras and hence were characterised as Avarnas or Panchamas.)

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Madras Music Season

Finally 45 days of awesomeness in Chennai. The real beauty of living in Madras ( Chennai ) is here to be enjoyed! Its winter (albeit some small rain hung over) and its time to listen to great carnatic music, great food, party over New Years and top it with some sports action of the Chennai Tennis Open.

A quick short guide on the MMS i.e. Margazhi Music Season

Locations of sabhas (halls) http://goo.gl/maps/GIOdh

Schedules
http://kutcheris.com/schedule.php
http://www.kutcheribuzz.com/december-season-home
http://www.indian-heritage.org/musicseason/sch.html
http://www.sabhash.com/home
http://www.chennaidecemberseason.com/

Schedule for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan – best according to me :-) { AC and food just across the road}
http://www.chennaidecemberseason.com/2012/11/bharatiya-vidya-bhavan-music-festival.html

Best part is till Dec 14th all the Halls have free music. All you have to do is show up!

The wall and the egg

Just read an amazing article about a speech by HARUKI MURAKAMI {About him from Wikipedia: His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and the Jerusalem Prize, among others. Murakami’s fiction, often criticized by Japan’s literary establishment, is humorous and surreal, focusing on themes of alienation and loneliness.[2] He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature. The Guardian praised Murakami as “among the world’s greatest living novelists” for his works and achievement}

The article The novelist in wartime at Salon talks about the individual (egg) and the System (wall). Some nice excerpts (for my reference mostly) – applies a lot to India!

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.”

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor?

It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is “the System.” The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others — coldly, efficiently, systematically.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow the System to exploit us. We must not allow the System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made the System. That is all I have to say to you.

what is journalism

With technology costs coming down and people becoming more participative, I have always wondering what and how to define what journalism actually entails. Jeff Jarvis quotes in his post on Product vs Process Journalism and I totally endorse Robert’s definition

Robert Picard writes that journalism

is not business model; it is not a job; it is not a company; it is not an industry; it is not a form of media; it is not a distribution platform. Instead, journalism is an activity. It is a body of practices by which information and knowledge is gathered, processed, and conveyed. The practices are influenced by the form of media and distribution platform, of course, as well as by financial arrangements that support the journalism. But one should not equate the two.

Another point, I strongly feel everyone (esp. India Media) should start understanding the implication of what they mean by citizen journalism. Just aggregating tweets or news bits or live reporting on the internet by people is not what I would call journalism. And the word citizen journalism with the general interpretation becomes too overloaded and loose. What is processed and how it is presented in any media at the end is what matters not how fast (not too late ;-) !) and how much (esp Indian New TV Channels).

the media tree

My sister sent a lovely story as a forward and then it made me think about the Seventh Mass Media. This made me think a good way to help people visualize evolution of media is using a family tree analogy. Let me know how you like it. My family tree is different than what the story entails but I hope this make sense.

Grand Pa (Cinema – 1900) married Grand Ma (Radio – 1910) outcame daughter (TV – 1950) with strain of Richness+Mass
Grand Pa (Print – 1400) married Grand Ma (Recording – 1800) outcame son (Internet – 1980) with Curiosity+Interactivity
Pa (Internet – 1980) married Ma (TV – 1950) outcame (Mobile – 2000)!

I would say its a bit too soon to deciding its gender and its characteristics. Lets just wait and watch :-)

The story my sister sent The Stranger

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger…he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home… Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular
Basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked… And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?…. .. .

We just call him ‘TV.’

(Note: This should be required reading for every household in America !)

He has a wife now….We call her ‘Computer.’

Their first child is “Cell Phone“.

The Seven Mass Media

  1. Print (books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, etc) from the late 1400s
  2. Recordings (records, tapes, cassettes, cartridges, CDs, DVDs) from the late 1800s
  3. Cinema from about 1900
  4. Radio from about 1910
  5. Television from about 1950
  6. Internet from about 1990
  7. Mobile phones from about 2000

girl

Just thought must share the lyrics of the song Girl from Across the Universe (I just love the movie+soundtrack):

Is there anybody going to listen to my story
All about the girl who came to stay?
She’s the kind of girl you want so much
It makes you sorry;
Still, you don’t regret a single day.
Ah girl! Girl! Girl…

Elite ‘I’ronies

Just read ‘Death of a salesman and other elite ironies: Tarun Tejpal‘ – a pure logical thought provoking writing. One of the few ‘mass’ writing by the ‘mass media’ that is intellectually stimulation and emotionally moving. The link unfortunately has ‘ads moving’ all over the page :-) :-( His writing strikes a true chord with my dis-illusioned state I find myself after 3 years of moving back to india + various experiences (rich, vivid and exhausting!).

What strikes me the most is what he says in the end : India’s elite should start getting its hands dirty so they can get a clean country. My thoughts on that: True, very true. But guess what most of the elites feel they have worked ‘hard’ to be elites and feel its time to take back from the country (non-diplomatically translated as exploit and show-off!) Then we come to ‘true’ elites – they are trying in their own way. We need a system thats brings it together i.e. collective action. Not downplaying the whole thing – we need ways to structure in the ‘whole’ thing to see impact!

Have some of the writing in quotes for my personal archive.

What the Indian elite is discovering today on the debris of fancy eateries is an acidic truth large numbers of ordinary Indians are forced to swallow every day.

The system does not work, the system is cruel, the system is unjust, the system exists to only serve those who run it. Crucially, what we, the elite, need to understand is that most of us are complicit in the system. In fact, the chances are the more we have — of privilege and money — the more invested we are in the shoring up of an unfair state.

For too many decades now, the elite of India has washed its hands off the country’s politics. Entire generations have grown up viewing it as a distasteful activity. In an astonishing perversion, the finest imaginative act of the last thousand years on the subcontinent, the creation and flowering of the idea of modern India through mass politics, has for the last 40 years been rendered infra dig, déclassé, uncool. Let us blame our parents, and let our children blame us, for not bequeathing onwards the sheer beauty of a collective vision, collective will, and collective action. In a word, politics: which, at its best, created the wonder of a liberal and democratic idea, and at its worst threatens to tear it down.

We stand faulted then in two ways. For turning our back on the collective endeavour; and for our passive embrace of the status quo. This is in equal parts due to selfish instinct and to shallow thinking. Since shining India is basically only about us getting an even greater share of the pie, we have been happy to buy its half-truths, and look away from the rest of the sordid story. Like all elites, historically, that have presided over the decline of their societies, we focus too much of our energy on acquiring and consuming, and too little on thinking and decoding.

Let’s track one causal chain. The Congress creates Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to neutralise the Akalis; Bhindranwale creates terrorism; Indira Gandhi moves against terrorism; terrorism assassinates Indira Gandhi; blameless Sikhs are slaughtered in Delhi; in the course of a decade, numberlessinnocents, militants, and securitymen die. Let’s track another. The BJP takes out an inflammatory rath yatra; inflamed kar sewaks pull down the Babri Masjid; riots ensue; vengeful Muslims trigger Mumbai blasts; 10 years later a bogey of kar sewaks is burnt in Gujarat; in the next week 2,000 Muslims are slaughtered; six years later retaliatory violence continues. Let’s track one more. In the early 1940s, in the midst of the freedom movement, patrician Muslims demand a separate homeland; Mahatma Gandhi opposes it; the British support it; Partition ensues; a million people are slaughtered; four wars follow; two countries drain each other through rhetoric and poison; nuclear arsenals are built; hotels in Mumbai are attacked.

In each of these rough causal chains, there is one thing in common. Their origin in the decisions of the elite. Interlaced with numberless lines of potential divisiveness, the India framework is highly delicate and complicated. It is critical for the elite to understand the framework, and its role in it. The elite has its hands on the levers of capital, influence and privilege. It can fix the framework. It has much to give, and it must give generously. The mass, with nothing in its hands, nothing to give, can out of frustration and anger, only pull it all down. And when the volcano blows, rich and poor burn alike.

And so what should we be doing? Well, screaming at politicians is certainly not political engagement. And airy socialites demanding the carpet-bombing of Pakistan and the boycott of taxes are plain absurd, just another neon sign advertising shallow thought. It’s the kind of dumb public theatre the media ought to deftly side-step rather than showcase. The world is already over-shrill with animus: we need to tone it down, not add to it.

The first thing we need to do is to square up to the truth. Acknowledge the fact that we have made a fair shambles of the project of nation-building. Fifty million Indians doing well does not for a great India make, given that 500 million are grovelling to survive. Sixty years after independence, it can safely be said that India’s political leadership — and the nation’s elite — have badly let down the country’s dispossessed and wretched. If you care to look, India today is heartbreak hotel, where infants die like flies, and equal opportunity is a cruel mirage.

Let’s be clear we are not in a crisis because the Taj hotel was gutted. We are in a crisis because six years after 2,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Gujarat there is still no sign of justice. This is the second thing the elite need to understand — after the obscenity of gross inequality. The plinth of every society — since the beginning of Man — has been set on the notion of justice. You cannot light candles for just those of your class and creed. You have to strike a blow for every wronged citizen.

And let no one tell us we need more laws. We need men to implement those that we have. Today all our institutions and processes are failing us. We have compromised each of them on their values, their robustness, their vision and their sense of fairplay.

Look around. How many constables, head constables, sub-inspectors would risk their lives for the dishonest, weak men they serve, who in turn serve even more compromised masters?

I wish Rohinton had survived the lottery of death in Mumbai last week. In an instant, he would have understood what we always went on about. India’s crying need is not economic tinkering or social engineering. It is a political overhaul, a political cleansing. As it once did to create a free nation, India’s elite should start getting its hands dirty so they can get a clean country.