'Dravidian Maya' - A Review

by Aravindan Neelakandan - Aug 18, 2022 12:59 AM +05:30 IST
'Dravidian Maya' - A ReviewDravidian Maya
  • The Dravidian movement of Tamil Nadu should be understood by every Indian, so that its repeat elsewhere in India can be prevented.

    To do that, this book is a must read - particularly outside the borders of Tamil Nadu.

Dravidian Maya: Lies Deceptions and Collaboration [Vol-I]. Subbu. Rare Publications, Chennai. Pages 240. Rs 350.

Subbu is a well-known name in the Hindutva circles of Tamil Nadu for the last one decade if not more. An energetic activist, a veteran journalist, master of many trades and an overall colourful personality, Subbu started serialising what would later become the book Dravida Mayai in the well-known website TamilHindu.com which runs under the editorship of Jataayu, a scholar of many fields.

The present book under review is the English translation of this book. The book is a collection of very interesting essays that are linked by a strong alternate view of history that challenges the accepted notions of social justice and community relations in Tamil Nadu.

The book is gentle as a breeze in every page. Each article is partially descriptive and partially anecdotal. Each article also ends with a selected quotation, from mostly the Dravidianist sources.

There is mostly, but not necessarily, a chronology to the articles. But there is a common feature that runs through these varied descriptions and variety of anecdotes. They bring out the inherent incompatibilities and contradictions that plagued the Dravidianist movement right from the beginning.

The intended audience of the book are non-Tamil readers. When a non-Tamil reads this book he or she will understand the different eddies which were present in the so-called Dravidianist movement. They will understand that contrary to popular perception, the Dravidianist movement was more for hatred towards Brahmins than for social justice.

The book also brings out the fact as to how from Justice Party, the precursor of Dravidian movement slowly and steadily moved from non-Brahmin stand to anti-Brahmin and how in both approaches they benefitted the British.

Often in the hagiographies of the Dravidian vintage, Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy Naicker alias 'Periyar' is depicted as a born rationalist and atheist. But Subbu shows that he was actually a staunch believer in God even when he launched his magazine Kudi Arasu in 1925.

In fact, he called a famous Vedic Saivite saint, Gnaniyaar Swamigal, and his magazine carried many advertisements which promoted 'irrational' merchandise, reveals Subbu.

Similarly, Subbu points out how the DMK storm troopers reacted when, the then DMK-oriented star ‘Shivaji’ Ganesan (1928-2001) started showing a change of heart by gravitating towards nationalism and visited the Tirupati temple. He was attacked. Cow dung was thrown on his posters.

However, later when M.G. Ramachandran (1917-1987) acted in a movie as a Hindu God – Skanda-Muruga, the DMK could not protest. This was because the cadre-fan base of MGR was very broad-based and organised. They clearly knew where to show their bravado and where not.

Subbu is not a conventional historian. Rather he gives us a slice – a cross-sectional view of the time of the development of the Dravidian movement. He shows the faultlines that exist within the movement.

Particularly important in this aspect is the visceral hatred that the landed non-Brahmin leaders had for the Scheduled Community. Their social justice thus often became a euphemism for Brahmin-bashing and devolved into a hypocrisy which found its most horrible expression in the Kilvenmani massacre of 1968. This massacre of 44 people of the Scheduled Community, non-land holding labourers by the henchmen of non-Brahmin Zamindars happened during the DMK rule.

The response of EVR was most shameful. The person who was till then roaring about social justice suddenly became a purring cat. His statement, which came after an initial silence, was more shameful than the silence. He blamed Manu. He blamed Gandhi. He blamed the freedom movement. He blamed the Communists. He blamed almost everything under the sun except the Zamindars and their henchmen who committed the heinous crime.

Subbu does not bore you with statistics and dates. He allows well-documented incidents to tell what he wants to tell, themselves. His power is both in his style of history-telling and also in his research.

His lucid narrating skills will actually make the reader forget the hard work he has put in. I happened to be privy to the way he did research. I know how he painstakingly he went to libraries, went through old journals and magazines and collected data. He copied the data from the sources with his fountain pen in his notes. Those notes are treasure troves of history. He has put them all to good use. This is the classical way of doing research and writing – a skill endangered in these days of internet.

Finally, a question arises: why did the Dravidian movement, despite such core weaknesses, inconsistencies and contradictions, become a mass movement and capture power in Tamil Nadu?

The second volume of Dravidian Maya will surely explain that.

This book is a must read for every patriotic Indian. The Dravidian movement of Tamil Nadu should be understood by every Indian so that a repeat of such a movement should be stopped elsewhere in India. To do that this book is a must read - particularly outside the borders of Tamil Nadu.

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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