Tamil, Kannada and the middle path

The politics of linguistic identity has its merits, especially in a country where linguistic oppression in the form of Hindi imposition, cultural oppression in the form of over-Sanskritization (and its related vice: the caste-system), and political oppression in the form of anti-federalism go un-noticed otherwise.

Yet, politics does not provide the complete solution.

In the recently concluded World Classical Tamil Conference, Tamil Nadu might have just proven its leadership in the politics of linguistic identity. While irresponsible media reports claim that such conferences are a display of "linguistic chauvinism" and "parochialsim", the fact is that these are natural reactions of a People subjected to thousands of years of immigrant high-handedness. The Government of Tamil Nadu must be congratulated for pulling off a good Conference highlighting Dravidian identity.

Disappointingly, however, both the Government and Tamil society at large woefully lag behind in taking Tamil to the next level--above linguistic identity. In becoming the chosen language for serious education and research, Tamil is no better than any other Indian language. This fact is also illustrated by the academic programme of the Conference which glaringly misses out anything significant about the the future course of Tamil, as if history alone suffices.

Tamil must look up to the Japanese, Germans and Israelis of the world who aren't wasting time tom-toming about antiquity, beauty or originality, but are instead investing their time, money and energy in using their languages for almost all known purposes.

Pride in the absence of serious attempts to make the language functional and futuristic will not last long. Although this conference makes it seem otherwise, one already sees Tamil pride in a by-and-large dysfunctional Tamil receding, and giving way to the acceptance of English and even Hindi in pockets. This is the death of Tamil Nadu, a death into whose mouth Kannadigas have decided to enter, a death which must die.

Thus, it is high time Tamil rises beyond offering the Tamils an identity, and becomes the chosen language for progressive purposes such as serious education and research.

Who will take Tamil to that level? None other than Tamil youths. Governmental force alone will not take it there. Tamil youths must wake up and realize that Tamil alone can help build a great Tamil Nadu, one devoid of poverty, ignorance and social ills.

Unfortunately, though, most upwardly mobile Tamil youths have resigned to the feeling that nothing much can be achieved in their mother tongue, just as their Kannadiga counterparts have. Those who offer the highest praise for Tamil have themselves resigned to the feeling that Tamil is at best a vehicle for leisure-writing, not for any serious purpose. This feeling must go, and together with it the suicidal belief that English will solve the problem of Tamils.

Kannadigas and Tamils have much to share and cooperate in taking their languages to the next level. Best practices from both traditions and cultures must be used for mutual benefit. While Kannadigas have over-done themselves in making way for Sanskrit and immigrants, Tamils have turned hostile to both and even rejected the wisdom of the Infinite which is encoded in Sanskrit. While Kannadigas have blindly submitted themselves to immigrant high-handedness in full, the Tamils have turned xenophobic and thrown away pure gold which some of the immigrants brought them at their door.

Clearly, extremes have to be avoided and a middle path discovered.

This middle path is not to be discovered by planting statues of old poets here and there in the hope of petty political gains. It is to be discovered by Tamils and Kannadigas sitting together and discussing ways of getting the two languages out of the clutches of history, antiquity and dysfunctionality. It is not to be discovered by politicians acting alone; it is to be discovered by us the people working in harmony with each other, and with our respective governments, and with unceasing love and caring for our own people.

I have failed

I write this with tears in my eyes, my Lord,
   for I realized I have erred,
Not today, but many births ago, when I saw Thee
   first as a farmer in the Forest,
And I, in my greed, fooled Thee and pushed Thee
   beyond World's Edge with a sword,
So that this wretched body of mine
   may pleasure itself.

I write this with tears in my eyes, my Lord,
   for I realized I have erred,
Not today, but many births ago, when I saw Thee
   again as a scavenger in the City,
And I, with the arrogance that my Tribe alone
   held Thee in the Heart,
   slowly humiliated and broke Thee
   into pieces with my thought alone,
   and denied Thee to Thy own Self,
So that this polluted body of mine
   can have Thee all for its own self.

I write this with tears in my eyes, my Lord,
   for I realize that I err
Even in this birth, where from my home in the skies
   I see Thee as a Kannadiga
   groping for breath underneath,
And, much like earlier, ignore Thy very existence,
   knowing not that I step on Thy head
   to rise to the skies,
So that I may not be reminded of my Duty to Thee,
   while pleasuring this wretched body of mine.

I do not want to live today, my Lord,
   come, take my life today, take my pleasures away,
Push me beyond World's Edge with Thy sword,
   break me into pieces with Thy thought,
   crush this wretched head of mine with Thy feet,
For I have failed to recognize
   Thee in Thy Self.

                                                                          - Kiran

If 'improvement of the native population is the object of the government'

While the BJP government of Karnataka is continuing unchecked with its pet project of erecting a parasitic and useless Sanskrit University, I'd like to draw the attention of readers to what Raja Ram Mohan Roy had to say, in a letter to Lord Amherst, Governor General in Council, about the Government's decision to establish a similar Sanskrit School in Calcutta, on 11 December 1823. I was happy to discover, today, that Roy held similar views on the topic:
We find that the government are establishing a Sanskrit school under Hindu pandits to impart such knowledge as is already current in India. This seminary (similar in character to those which existed in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon) can only be expected to load the minds of youth with grammatical niceties and meta physical distinctions of little or no practical use to the possessors or to society. The pupils will there acquire what was known two thousand years ago with the addition of vain and empty subtleties since then produced by speculative men such as is already commonly taught in all parts of India.
Roy argued that the Government must, instead of perpetuating ignorance, establish a school which provides education in the European sciences:
If it had been intended to keep the British nation in ignorance of real knowledge, the Baconian philosophy would not have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen which was the best calculated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner the Sanskrit system of education would be the best calculated to keep this country in darkness, if such had been the policy of the British legislature. But as the improvement of the native population is the object of the government, it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, with other useful sciences, which may be accomplished with the sums proposed by employing a few gentlemen of talent and learning educated in Europe and providing a college furnished with necessary books, instruments, and other apparatus.
Now of course, I can already hear critics either launch ad hominem attacks on Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and/or frantically google for what M. S. Golwalkar or his tribe had to say about the man, and/or point out that we already have the kind of schools which Roy wanted the British Government to establish.

While I will have to let the ad hominem attackers and googlers go ahead and waste their time, the answer to the third critique is that we don't have the "few gentlemen of talent and learning" who understand how to impart that knowledge in Kannada without resorting to over-sanskritizing the terminology and thereby making the mother tongue of the people itself seem alien. The native population, whose improvement must ideally be the object of the government, is so deeply misunderstood by it that it thinks of Kannada, a Dravidian language, as some sort of a corrupt form of Sanskrit, with its ideologues still possessing the stupidity of calling linguistics as a pseudo-science.

Irrespective of what the BJP Government is doing today, and irrespective of the fact that it is incorrigible, I must point out that the best application of Kannadiga taxpayer money is in improving the Kannada medium education system. We can't afford to waste our money on useless parasites; there is a lot of innovation in Kannada which is in dire need of intellectual attention and monetary funding.

Federalism is in the air

New Delhi's attempt to completely centralize the regulation of higher education in all the states seems to have met its match, with many states actually calling the attempt as non-federal. Writes Aditi Tandon in the Tribune on May 29, 2010:
The proposed overarching regulator for higher education in India will not be “all-powerful” and “centralised.”

Following stiff opposition from the state governments, some of which (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Gujarat) rejected the old draft of the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill 2010 as anti-federal, the Centre-appointed taskforce working on the draft law today finalised its “federal” version, allaying the concerns of states.
Note that, of the major south Indian states, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are glaringly absent from the list of opposing states. While Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Gujarat at least the ability to decode Kapil Sibal's dictatorial moves, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have some ground to cover here. They have apparently failed to realize that the states' right to rule themselves is basically being usurped by New Delhi.

Although the issue of higher education is not completely resolved and the new "solution" not completely satisfactory, the move towards federalization of the Indian polity, in general, is clear. It is high time Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh wake up and join the league of states leading India towards true federalism.