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.