Colombo Telegraph

Tamil Nadu Students Challenge State & Centre

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

“When it concerns our revered Motherland
We shall no longer wring our impotent hands”- Bharathi

The eruption in Tamil Nadu had assumed volcanic proportions last week. Even as it was scoring an epic victory, it was throttled at the neck before it could reach the vent and spew out it’s molten lava. Yet history was made in the legislative Assembly by the Tamils, with students in the forefront, populace in support and the legislators in tow. At the sensible insistence of the students and the youth the state and centre acted responsively and enacted the desired legislation. This was an act of political triumph.

Over Two Million Demonstrators

A vast concourse of students, adults and children assembled in 132 locations across the whole state was unprecedented. They numbered over 2 million and Chennai Marina alone accounted for 1 million. Commitment to a cause – demand for legal recognition of their rights by Centre and State – brought them together. Peaceable protest and orderly demonstration were their weapons of choice. With food and drinks given liberally by the community as a gesture of participation and support, crowds swelled by the day. In a show of persistence, they stayed put for 6 consecutive days.

Purpose Driven Discipline

Did Tamil Nadu see a surge of the students in anger and wrath with verve and determination for a mere prosaic Jallikattu – embracing the youthful bulls? That would be to look at a pointed finger but failing to see the direction. The Tamil nation knew the underlying reason and India admired the motivation, depth of feeling, gigantic organization and self-discipline. In passing it may be said social media had placed in their hands, modern instruments for facile communication and an unprecedented phenomenon was seen.

On the second day of the protest, as is standard practice lights were cut off at night to sow chaos. A lakh of mobile phones flashed instantly and lit up the Marina. There wasn’t a single instance of hurt for a man, woman, girl or child. In keeping with national programme of ‘Neat India’, garbage accumulating at 100 tons a day at the Marina was cleared by volunteers without a break. All these acts won the admiration of the Indian polity.

A view of the Marina with its protesters

Clear Direction

All for what? To secure a worthwhile objective. Among protests and demonstrations in Tamil Nadu since independence, three stand out in scale, intensity and result orientation. They are: 1) Anti – Hindi agitation of January 1965, which resulted in a regime change from Congress to DMK in1967. The change secured the language demands of Tamils through a legislative amendment in December 1967 for “virtual indefinite policy of bilingualism” ie use of English and Hindi in official transactions. 2) Students in Ferment of March 2013, which galvanized the youth and 3) The Student Movement of January 2017, which brought in the desired legislation to the statute book, in respect of Jallikattu.

Such developments were in the logic of progress and were foreseen. In an article – ‘Tamil Nadu in Ferment’ – published in the Colombo Telegraph of April 13, 2013 this writer said “The significance of the struggle defines an altogether new political direction in the state. The change in its incipient stage as of now portends great challenges to Delhi”. In the week following Thai Pongal, Tamil Nadu was constrained to enact legislation to sanction Jallikattu. Delhi sensed the dead heat of Chennai Marina and responded proactively.

In the march of time, a journey is continuous. This writer added further in that article, “The groundwork is laid for a new forceful formation to emerge. It will not raise plaintive cries to Delhi. A new equilibrium is in the making and fresh bearings have to be taken therefrom.” This shift has come to pass and Delhi has been challenged not with a plaintiff plea but with an aggressive demand. The very sequence of events and the supersonic speed with which the legislative arrangements were executed have left many an Indian citizen aghast.

Mukul Rohatgi, Attorney General of India

With absolute clarity of mind the Attorney General of India, unlike all else veered from untying the Gordian Knot but cut it with a single stroke. He said on Thursday 19th of January “Only probable way to end the crisis was if the state came up with its own law”. He added that “sport was a state subject and the state government had the power and the right to make a law allowing a sport”. Safeguards against cruelty can be appropriately included.

Thus, what seemed a thick haze surrounding a labyrinthine legal process was deftly removed. It may be said that pressure from the students and other younger segments, activated the cerebral process, brought in clarity and stirred accelerated action in Chennai and Delhi. From then on Jallikattu received the attention to resolve a crisis.

Hectic Action

The state government taking the cue from the Attorney General, cracked into action. The CM of Tamil Nadu O. PanneerSelvam presumably with draft law in hand, took flight to Delhi to meet PM, Modi . The appointment was for 30 minutes but the discussion lasted 2 hours. At the end of it Modi assured the CM that he would do all in his power to resolve the problem.

CM scheduled to return to Chennai had to cancel his flight back in order to finalize the draft law with the law officers of Delhi. He returned on Saturday morning and the draft law was approved by TN government. Governor was out of the state and endorsement was obtained in the evening. This emergency Act was rejected by the students who wanted a permanent one. CM’s pleas and explanations cut no ice with the students.

The following day Monday morning the Legislative Assembly met and proceeded with the first item, the Governor’s Address. The Jallikattu Bill was passed unanimously for a permanent dispensation to the satisfaction of all. Governor’s assent was obtained immediately thereafter. An event of gigantic proportions and historic significance conducted with dignity and poise, shook the state and the country. Yet a malign destiny intervened to spoil the day with mayhem unleashed by the police.

What Happened and Why?

What vexed the Tamils was their current condition out of joint with their perception of past greatness. Distance in time continues to lend enchantment to the view. The times of Cholan Karikalan as found in Sangam Tamil literature are alluring. Exploits of Raja Raja Cholan are filled with splendor and glory. Scholars recount them. Namakkal Ramalingampillai the first Tamil poet laureate after independence said famously, “We have been a great people, people with a rich heritage. May we do all we can to regain such glory”.

Young men and women with their hearts pulsating with idealism sacrificed the best in them. But they didn’t see their motherland growing in step. They were the sacrificial segments but expropriators were the beneficiaries of the economic fruits. They ploughed, sowed and reaped but the harvest went to those with power. They failed to get a share in 1967, in 2013 and not even credit in 2017.

If this writer’s thinking is right, this foolery will not persist much longer. When students generate heat, politicals flock to monopolize the warmth. In 1965 students accommodated them. When this happened in March 2013, youth showed them the way back. When they repeated this noxious practice in January 2017, they were roughly shuffled out. What change awaits Tamil Nadu? A drastic one with revolutionary features.

Why such discomforting times are seen? Today Tamil Nadu has an elected Chief Minister. Parading alongside is an ignoble parallel government comprising unelected vulgar usurpers. Even the Jallikattu victory they prate is theirs. The students know what they are about and what they are up to. It is reported that the CM has cautioned the PM of the lurking danger. The latter is supposed to have advised the informant to look after his work and that he will take care of the danger. This information was in the public domain.

Degenerate usurpers are on the prowl in Tamil Nadu. They have swindled the state for far too long, Yet they want to bleed the people white. Deep seated Resentment pent up for long seems to nourish drastic measures. The day of Jallikattu was the occasion for a convulsion. Adding fuel to fire was Kaveri water dispute and the partial stance taken by the central government, the same discriminatory stance on Mullaiperiyar dam and several other issues. In January the students and adults removed their kid gloves.

The group on the defensive with hands on certain levers of power appears to dread coming events. It is unable to watch without fear the unqualified success of the student movement. This would explain the violence let loose on them. A great endeavor got a brief setback. However, keen observers are in the know and the students’ challenge is for ever.

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