The Brahmins of old did not rule. They advised the rulers. They were rarely kings. They
aspired to be king makers. Some modern day Tamil Brahmins follow that tradition. Not so
much by choice but by force of circumstance.
Alienated from the mainstream of Dravidian Tamil nationalism which grew in Tamil Nadu,
the Brahmin without political power in his own land, has sometimes found recompense by
walking in the corridors of power in New Delhi. Walking in the corridors of power is a
seductive substitute for those who are unable to occupy its seat.
You find the Tamil Brahmin everywhere in the corridors. In the Research Analysis Wing,
in the Strategic Studies Centre, in the higher echelons of the Indian Civil service. At
Thimpu for instance, both the Deputy Directors of RAW who were
present on a daily basis, talking with members of the Tamil delegation as well as with the
Sri Lanka delegation were Tamil Brahmins.
And when the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement was
mooted, who else but a Tamil Brahmin played a significant role, moving with Presidents and
Ministers and not losing the 'common touch' - Mr.N.Ram of the Madras Hindu, the media
pillar of the Brahmin establishment of Tamil Nadu.
And recently, this particular Tamil Brahmin has aired his
views to the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Island, which in its introductory blurb to the
interview found it relevant to let its readers know that Mr.Ram as 'a scion of the Kasturi
Ranga Iyengar family which own the prestigious Hindu media group.' Of course Mr.Ram's
views have received, unsurprisingly, the widest publicity in the September issue of the
Tamil Times. The message of the head line came out loud and clear: 'Eelam is a pipe dream,
says Mr. N.Ram'.
Ofcourse, the Tamil Times does not itself take the view that 'Eelam is a pipe dream'.
At any rate it does not dare say so. But it seems that the Tamil Times would have its
readers believe that it is so committed to that great defender of liberty, Voltaire, that
it was simply defending to the death Mr.N.Ram's right to say that 'Eelam is a pipedream'.
So much for background.
Now let us examine what Mr.Ram says. The implication of Mr.Ram's profound conclusion is
clear. If Eelam is a pipe dream, then the thousands who have given their lives for Tamil
Eelam are misguided fools who have died for 'a pipe dream' - fools who should have
listened to the disinterested advice of the best Brahmin brains. "This is the trouble
with these commoners - they never know what is possible and what is not possible".
But then, what about the views expressed by an eminent panel of political geographers
(sponsored by the US State Department) that the "coming changes in the world's frontiers will be
among the most profound in history" and that during this decade "in Asia,
India loses Punjab and part of Kashmir and Northern Sri Lanka becomes a separate Tamil
homeland". What would Mr.Ram tell Mr.William B.Wood, the State Department's Chief
geographer to do with the panel's prediction -
put it in
their collective pipe and smoke it?
'Not a nationality question but a democratic question' says Ram
Mr.Ram has sought to buttress his conclusion by giving expression to his views on
nationality and self determination. Says he:
"(The ethnic divide in Sri Lanka) is not a 'nationality question'. It is a
democratic question. You need not define any nationalities so you don't recognise any
right to self determination. The two sides in the dispute must approach it as a democratic
question which means you are talking of the structure of government."
You need not define any nationalities and then there is no need to recognise any
right to self determination. Hey Presto! You define
away the Tamil national struggle! But, if you do not define any nationalities, who are the
'two sides' to the dispute? And, as for the
and more non governmental organisations including the International Commission of
Jurists who recognised the 'national struggle' of the Tamil 'people' at the recent
sessions of the UN Sub Commission on Minorities in Geneva - well, they too do not know
what they are talking about. After all they have not had the advice of the Brahmin
establishment of Tamil Nadu.
To Mr.Ram from the Brahmin establishment of Tamil Nadu, the conflict in the island is a
'democratic question' and all you need to do to resolve the conflict is talk about the
'structure of goverment'. But how does one talk about 'structures of government' without
talking about the political reality on the ground to which such structures must of
necessity relate. And what is the political reality
on the ground?
The political reality is that no Tamil has ever been elected executive head of
Government in Sri Lanka whether as Prime Minister or President. The political reality is
that no Sinhalese has ever been elected to a predominantly Tamil electorate. The political
reality is that no Tamil has ever been elected to a predominantly Sinhala electorate. The
political reality is that democracy within the confines of a single state consolidated
rule by a permanent Sinhala majority.
It was a permanent Sinhala majority, which through a series of legislative and
administrative acts, ranging from disenfranchise-ment, and standardisation of University
admissions, to discriminatory language and employment policies, and state sponsored
coloni-sation of the homelands of the Tamil people, sought to establish its
oppressive rule over the Tamil people. Tamil opposition to
these tyrannical measures was met with
open Sinhala violence
directed to terrorise and intimidate the Tamil people into submission. It was a course of
conduct which eventually led to the
rise of the armed
resistance of the Tamil people which is today led by the LTTE.
|The Tamil people in Eelam are not simply an ethnic group. They are an
ethnic group which has acquired a political consciousness and a political identity and
that is why they constitute a nation. The 'ethnic divide' has
had everything to do with the political consciousness of the electorate on the ground -
and it is mischievous to deny that. The political reality today is that there are two
nations in the island, the Tamil nation and the Sinhala nation.
Assertion of guilt before trial according to law
Not altogether surprisingly, it seems that Mr.Ram's opposition to the Tamil nation
extends to his opposition to the Liberation Tigers who are the leaders of that nation. In
a revealing comment on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, he says:
"The investigators have established a consistent pattern of LTTE operatives and
sympathisers carrying out the assassination. It is absolutely clear that the order came
from the top. To prove this, Pirabaharan has to be brought to trial. Extradition becomes
necessary. This will no doubt make negotiations more difficult. It introduces practical
Clearly Mr.Ram is not inclined to agree with the views expressed by
Dr. Baker (in article which appears
elsewhere) that "the euphoria among the ruling political parties (the Congress at
the Centre and the AIADMK in the state) to 'get the LTTE', the past record of the police,
security and intelligence agencies of doing the bidding of the ruling parties even if it
amounted to illegalities, the real or perceived bias in the investigation and the court's
refusal to grant permission to the suspects in custody to consult a lawyer for many
months, all shed a shadow of doubt on the integrity of the investigation".
But more to the point, Mr.Ram asserts on the basis of material
which has yet to be tested in Court proceedings, that "it is absolutely clear
that the order came from the top" and that "to prove this, Pirabaharan has to be
brought to trial." Surely a case of the cart before the horse if ever there was one.
Mr.Ram is 'absolutely clear' of Pirabaharan's guilt even before the trial. In his view, it
is simply to prove that guilt that Pirabaharan has to be brought to trial.
He clearly does not agree with those who may have thought that a trial is where the
guilt or otherwise of an accused is determined. So much for the presumption of innocence
until proved guilty according to law. What is more, Mr.Ram has no qualms in giving public
expression through the media on a matter which is sub judice.
Like the white supremacists of the Ku Klux Klan, the Brahmin establishment of Tamil
Nadu seems to prefer lynch law to the rule of law. A 'show trial' to prove guilt that is
already decided upon, is all that is needed. And, of course, that
is what the Changleput trial is - a show trial. And to what end?
Mr.Ram lets the cat out of the bag with his somewhat smug remark:
"This will no doubt make negotiations more difficult. It introduces practical
The IPKF adventure having failed,
the trial is intended to serve the political ends of India by helping it to influence any
negotiatory process intended to resolve the conflict in the Island.
PMK is 'fringe group' with no popular influence but threatened with ban
And, in the meantime, ofcourse, on no account is Tamil nationalism to be encouraged.
Mr.Ram is dismissive of the Tamil
Nadu response to the struggle for Tamil Eelam. He says:
"Nedumaran is in clear sympathy with the Eelam cause.
These are individuals on the fringe who don't
represent any kind of popular opinion...
like Ramadoss are only a fringe. (PMK) (If there is a military thrust into Jaffna), I
would say there would be a deafening silence
(in Tamil Nadu)."
Readers looking at the photo alongside
may well wonder at the 'deafening silence' of the marchers at the Pattali Makkal
Katchi demonstration in Tamil Nadu who hailed Velupillai Pirabaharan as a leader, not
simply of Tamil Eelam but of the Tamil nation.(composite
photo of the march in Madras on 12 September 1992)
But then this was just one march by a 'fringe group' which does not 'represent any kind
of popular opinion.' So much so that the Indian Government decided to accede to the
request of the Tamil Nadu government and sent special troops into Tamil Nadu to assist in
the arrest of around 3000 Tamil activists on charges of sedition. Not only that but Home
Minister Mr.M.M.Jacob declared that the Central Government was considering banning the
PMK. Why bother to ban 'fringe groups' which do not 'represent any kind of popular
opinion'? What does the Indian government fear?
The actions of the Indian government speak louder than the words of Mr.Ram. But then
again let us recognise that Mr. Ram's comments reflect the anxiety of the Tamil Brahmin
establishment in Tamil Nadu at the continued rise of Tamil national consciousness.
Mr.Ram's comments are therefore a happy augury. They show that
nationalism is not dead, but alive, kicking, and growing - and has begun to haunt the
Brahmin establishment of Tamil Nadu. Ram! O Ram!