Reflections on immolations and aftermaths
January 25th was the day the young man burnt himself to death. He was just 27 years old. He believed that `sacrificing` his life would make the central government sit up and take notice. He also believed that the state government would gain momentum to protect the rights of `its` people. “One day, my goal will be met,” he said in a note before committing self immolation. His death caught the media attention. Public became agitated. Youth- especially the student community became angry. The entire state was ready to revolt. The central government had to budge. The state government had to face defeat in the next election. This was in 1965. His name was Chinnasamy. I felt, that time, that he was a martyr. I felt he had to be honored. I felt that his death should not go waste- and I fanatically ignored Hindi. Even now I do not know Hindi, but I had forgotten his name. I had to google to find out who he was.
January 29th, thirty four years later, another young man burnt himself to death. He was 26 years old. He too believed that `sacrificing` his life would make the central government sit up and take notice. He also believed that the state government would gain momentum to protect the rights of `its` people. The day before immolating himself, he had written, “The DMK that came to power riding high on the efforts of your struggle, first made a law that students should not take part in politics. After capturing power, it blunted Tamil feelings, and turned the entire Tamil population into a petitioning tribe. Smash that tradition. Don’t believe anybody who asks you to submit a petition.” He wanted the student community to become angry, he wanted the state to revolt. He wanted the central government to budge and wanted the state government to learn a lesson. Many feel that he is a martyr. Many feel he has to be honored. Many feel that his death should not go waste. Not just his name, his photograph too is fresh in the minds of Tamil people, but, a generation later someone would use a search engine to find out his name.
The thousands who use the subway in west mambalam know that it is called aranganathan subway, but hardly anyone remembers that this aranganathan was another young man who burnt himself to death in 1965. His life gave life to DMK. The party came to power on the sentiments of anti-hindi agitation. It is the same party that is tasting public irritation after the death of Muthukumar. “Dear Tamil people, in the struggle against injustice our brothers and children have taken up the weapon of the intellect. I have used the weapon of life. You use the weapon of photocopying. Yes, make copies of this pamphlet and distribute it to your friends, relatives, and students and ensure that this support for this struggle becomes greater.”-were the last words in the four page final letter that muthukumar left for the people of tamilnadu. Sure enough, it happened. Those pages were not just photocopied, but also translated and distributed. Is muthukumar going to become another name-of-a-flyover?
In 1965, youth believed that DMK was the solution to the State. We believed what the “great” leaders said. Annadurai made the following statements opposing Hindi imposition: “It is claimed that Hindi should be common language because it is spoken by the majority. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous? Or the peacock as our national bird when the crow is ubiquitous?” He also said,“Since every school in India teaches English, why can’t it be our link language? Why do Tamils have to study English for communication with the world and Hindi for communications within India? Do we need a big door for the big dog and a small door for the small dog? I say, let the small dog use the big door too!” We were all swayed by the rhetoric. We were fascinated. Our dreams lost all their boundaries. Anna’s lieutenants were equally fiery in their speeches. Though the anti-hindi agitation in tamilnadu began in 1938, it was the death of aranganathan, chinnasamy,veerappan, muthu, sarangapani and some more whose names have not been recorded that whipped up Tamil-spirit. We all believed that Anna and his team were our role models and they would usher in a new era of growth and prosperity in Tamilnadu. Anna died almost immediately after assuming power and then came the master craftsman of manipulative politics- MK. We believed equally in him. He was even celebrating January 25th as martyr’s day! Now? I and most of my generation cannot go out of this state and have simple conversations with other Indians because we do not know hindi. we are now small dogs with not even a small window to even peep leave alone enter other languages,whereas MK’s family has learnt enough hindi to have political discussions in that language.
Thirty four years later, I see a similar picture. Muthukumar is dead. His body was taken in a procession for the final parting. Youth have flocked the funeral procession. Young men and women are furious. They are angry at the state and central governments. They believe that Eelam has to be liberated.
We were right in believing then that Hindi should not be imposed at the cost of Tamil- though the frenzy created by the ‘leaders’ of that time made us hate Hindi. Now, the youth are convinced that Tamils should not be slaughtered in srilanka, which is the right thought to nurture into a constructive plan of action.but here again I see political craftsmen masquerading as mass leaders and deviating the youth. An intolerant and brash person with no foresight for his people is projected as the savior of the ethnic group. Just as how we were made to hate hindi those days instead of loving tamil more, so too are the youth made to eulogize prabakaran instead of wanting peace and life for tamils in srilanka.
The youth were brainwashed then to remove the congress and install DMK. Now they are going to be used to remove both dmk and congress- but to install who? We have only crooks and clowns posing as leaders now. Someone from the youth must come forward, learn the history of tamilnadu’s political games and lead the next generation towards a brighter future.
Otherwise, muthukumar’s death would become meaningless. If we cannot learn from death how are we going to live?