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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Ram! O Ram!

October 1992

[see also Response: Caste & the Tamil Nation, November 2006 and

Comment by Sam Sampanthar, United Kingdom, November 1998 "I do not think the reference to 'Tamil Brahmins ' adds anything to your brilliant response in Ram! O Ram!. After all there may be some Brahmins who are sympathetic to the cause. Why hurt their feelings? Attack the message not the messenger". and  response from tamilnation.org  "..The matter you raise is an important one. Admittedly, the need to be sensitive to the feelings of those who may continue to regard themselves as Tamil Brahmins cannot be denied. The article Ram! O Ram! was written in 1992, when the writer was six years younger and that may partially (though, not totally) explain the somewhat combative language!]


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 twenty 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 restrictions."

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 restrictions."

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... People 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)   tnadu1.JPG (43625 bytes)

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 Tamil nationalism is not dead, but alive, kicking, and growing - and has begun to haunt the Brahmin establishment of Tamil Nadu. Ram! O Ram!

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