Migrant Workers In Tamil Nadu: Dravidianist Propaganda Boomerangs On State Government?

Migrant Workers In Tamil Nadu: Dravidianist Propaganda Boomerangs On State Government?

by Aravindan Neelakandan - Monday, March 6, 2023 08:01 PM IST
Migrant Workers In Tamil Nadu: Dravidianist Propaganda Boomerangs On State Government?Tami Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin.
  • The one danger that still lurks is that the Dravidian model of propaganda against 'outsiders' may inspire similar events across other states, disrupting the India growth story.

The rumours of violent attacks on north Indian migrant workers in Tamil Nadu and their possible exodus has seemingly made the ruling party realise its folly of stoking propaganda against 'outsiders'.

Rabble-rousing speeches by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) cadre, tweets and memes by media handles associated with the DMK, etc, started a cascading effect from a party called 'Nam Tamilar Katchi' (NTK, Party of Us Tamils).

The anti-Brahmin rhetoric of Dravidianists and 'anti-outsider' rhetoric of Tamil chauvinists fed into each other.

From social media and oratory platforms, the antipathy got transferred to the real world.

Let us look at the chain of events.

1. 'Get Lost! We Know No Hindi'

Let us not forget that the DMK started using a disrespectful term 'poda' (crudely, get lost) as a response to a fictitious north Indian allegedly trying to impose Hindi: "We know no Hindi. Get lost!"

Film celebrities and politicians of DMK leanings sported this T-shirt and posted pictures on social media.

There were speculations that this was a strategy to win the then upcoming state election, and that it was suggested, in a cruel irony, by poll strategist who himself belonged to Bihar and is from the Brahmin community.

Eventually, anti-incumbency against the AIADMK, rather than anti-Hindi rhetoric, made DMK win the elections.

Still, it was not a landslide.

Even a ten-year anti-incumbency against All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) could not effect a pro-DMK wave.

In 2011, with a five-year anti-incumbency against DMK rule, AIADMK won in a massive landslide.

The DMK knows that it has to strengthen itself. But here, animosity rather than good administration seems to to be the path chosen.

2. Pani Puri Jibe — Product Of Dravidian Model

In the second round of propaganda, top officials of the DMK, including ministers, spoke disparagingly of north Indians as pani puri sellers in Tamil Nadu.

Soon, NTK, a party that considers Hitler as one of its heroes, plunged into the issue.

The NTK has been projecting itself as an alternative to DMK by claiming that the Dravidian movement itself was a non-Tamil conspiracy, and that it represents pure-blooded Tamil aspirations.

Seeman, a Christian, who enjoys quite a strong support from both Catholic church and other denominations, has been working overtime to decouple Hindu religious symbols from their spiritual core and politicise them as symbols of Tamil ancestral worship.

He and his cohorts started making aggressive speeches. Even mild altercations, here and there, between the migrant workers and some locals started acquiring an ethnic colour.

The rot of antipathy against non-Tamils in general and north Indians in particular is a product of the so-called 'Dravidian model's' propaganda.

This propaganda posits that it is because of the ideological acceptance of Dravidianism, that Tamil Nadu is prosperous.

The actual reasons, however, predate Dravidianism.

Then, the propaganda also posits that north India is poor because it is not Dravidian. It is quasi-racist and quasi-ideological essentialising of north Indians.

This essentialising has further degenerated into a hate stereotype of 'uncultured, pan-parag munching, pani-puri-selling north Indians snatching away the jobs of Tamils'.

3. Congress Tool Kit?

It will be absolutely naive to think that this is a localised Tamil event. Terrorists in Kashmir too have been targeting migrant workers, mainly from Bihar.

Rahul Gandhi, while attending a book-release event organised by the DMK, spoke about how 'others' are occupying important jobs in Kashmir, and that the Tamil identity was being sabotaged by Narendra Modi.

Then during the Kashmir leg of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, he again attacked those who came from 'outside' and took the jobs of local people.

The DMK has been caught between its own rhetoric as well as the Congress-tool-kit on one hand and the need to show at least some economic growth on the other.

Already, it has been facing unprecedented anti-incumbency. So much so, that even to win a by-poll, the party had to almost improvise on the 'Thirumangalam model' (cash for money) and come up with a new 'Erode model' (cash-cooker-jewellery and confinement for votes).

If there is a mass exodus of migrant workers from the state then the economy of Tamil Nadu will be drastically affected.

So, in a surprisingly welcome move, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu tweeted and warned against 'anti-Indian forces spreading hatred with vile intention' — a phrase generally used by BJP.

4. Attacking Annamalai

A face-saver was still needed. So, the DMK is now trying to shift the blame on Tamil Nadu BJP party president, K Annamalai.

The DMK line on the issue now is that it was Annamalai who was creating the fear in the minds of people.

With almost a dysfunctional IT wing of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, with which Annamalai had to put up with so far, the DMK allegation would have been at least successful on social media.

But fortunately, because of his immense popularity, Annamalai does not need the IT cell of the state BJP.

From his handle, Annamalai tweeted a comprehensive compilation of how DMK leaders (starting from party chief and Chief Minister Stalin himself) and alliance partners had unwittingly spoken against north Indians.

The troubling part is that what is happening in Tamil Nadu may be the premature surfacing of an all-India strategy against the country's growth story.

Fortunately, Tamil Nadu BJP has been vigilant and has consistently warned against this propaganda.

But there is every possibility that the same propaganda may be carried out in other states — from Maharashtra to Karnataka to Kashmir.

A determined Centre should nip such campaigns in the bud and detoxify the stream of national life.

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