Where was the Indian Army in 1991? (Tamil Nadu-Karnataka)

M. Karuppannan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2000 (ID. 2000-12-02); Updated 2017-04-01

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DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

TNLA - Tamil Nadu Liberation Army

TNRT - Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troops


1. Looking back at 1991

2. Fast Forward to Year 2000

3. Why do Hindi Politicians hold a "Dislike" for Tamils?

4. Some Hindi People "Celebrated" Annadurai's Death!

5. Karnataka is Discriminatefd Too!

6. Divide and Rule Strategy

7. A New Era of Friendship

1. Looking back at 1991

Year 1991. Supreme Court of India finally rules in favor of Tamil Nadu State in its long-drawn dispute with the neighbor Karnataka State over sharing Cauvery River water. Incited by certain Kannada politicians and chauvinistic groups, Kannadiga hooligans go on a violent rampage against the large number of Tamils living in Karnataka. (This statement is not an indictment against Kannadigas in general. This is against the then Karnataka State Government, certain politicians, chauvinists, hooligans and certain police officials responsible for the Karnataka Tamil massacres of 1991. Some Kannadigas, in fact, sheltered Tamils and protected them from the rampaging hooligans.)

Dozens of Tamil men, women and children were brutally murdered, dozens of Tamil women of all ages were raped, and thousands of Tamil houses and businesses were looted and burnt. Tens of thousands of Tamils fled Karnataka to the safety of Tamil Nadu. In addition to their lives, limbs and honor, Tamils of Karnataka lost millions of Rupees worth of properties. Karnataka police mostly stood aside and watched the violence and in some cases even participated in the violence and shared the loot with the hooligans. (See "Karnataka Massacres: Part I", TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 1998 for more details)

Seeing that the Karnataka State Government and police are not doing anything effective to stop the continuing orgy of violence against the Tamil people, the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha pleaded with the Indian Government to send the Indian army to protects the Tamil people. The Indian Government flatly refused. Had the Indian Army been sent, much of the violence, loss of lives and loss of property could have been prevented. But, alas, the Indian Government refused to protect the Tamils of Karnataka.

2. Fast Forward to Year 2000

Year 2000. A popular Kannada movie star, Rajkumar, and two others were kidnapped in Tamil Nadu by a Tamil sandalwood smuggler, newly turned Tamil nationalist ("Sandalwood" Veerappan) and two established Tamil nationalist groups of Tamil Nadu (TNLA and TNRT) and taken to a jungle hideout bordering Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. All their demands for the release of Rajkumar were political or humanitarian in nature. There were no selfish personal demands. Their demands included compensation for Karnataka Tamils harmed during the 1991 violence and punishment of those engaged in criminal acts at that time. (NOTE: Not a single individual was punished. Compensation is yet to be paid in spite of a court order.)

Unlike in 1991 when the Indian Government flatly refused Tamil Nadu Government's request for protection to the Karnataka Tamils, the Indian Government publicly stated its willingness to help rescue Rajkumar if requested. While publicly negotiating with the kidnappers, the Karnataka government secretly requested Indian Government to provide Indian army commandos to rescue Rajkumar and the 2 others. According to press reports, Indian Government sent specially trained elite army commandos in plain clothes to near the jungle hideout (Thinaboomi, November 19, 2000). In addition, Indian Government satellite images of the jungle were gathered to identify the hideouts of the kidnappers. Indian army helicopters with thermal imaging equipment were also on the ready to fly over the jungle to identify unusual heat concentrations (indicating possible human activity). Before the plans were put into operation, kidnappers released Rajkumar and the 2 others at the intercession of a Tamil editor, some Tamil leaders and humanitarians.

In short, the Indian Government was at the ready to use every resource it had to rescue the kidnapped. We believe that it was absolutely the right thing to do. The lives and liberty of 3 citizens were at stake and it is the responsibility of the Indian Government to do everything to protect and save them. Our question is, "Why didn't the Indian Government act similarly in 1991 when Tamils were attacked, robbed, raped and murdered for two weeks all over Karnataka?" Are they not Indian citizens?

If you say that Rajkumar was a popular movie star and those killed in 1991 were "ordinary" people, that is not an excuse. Every one deserves equal protection, the popular and the pauper, the rich and the poor. Moreover, in the 1990s when some Hindi speakers of Uttar Pradesh were attacked and killed by Sikh guerrillas, a contingent of soldiers was dispatched immediately to prevent further attacks. They were "ordinary" people. When Kashmir Pandits (who consider themselves Aryans like the Hindi elite) were attacked by Kashmir guerrillas, army was dispatched immediately. Those Pandits were "ordinary" people. Why was the army not sent to protect the Tamil people of Karnataka in 1991? Is there a "dislike" for Tamils among the Hindi politicians who dominate the Indian parliament and thus control Indian Government decisions?

3. Why do Hindi Politicians hold a "Dislike" for Tamils?

Many Hindi politicians, Hindi elite and educated Hindi peiople hold the view that it is the Tamil people who stand in the way of their language, Hindi, taking its due place (from their perspective) as the sole official language of the Indian Union. This is, in fact, true. But for Tamil people's vehement opposition to Hindi imposition, and the several hundred "blood sacrifices" that Tamils suffered opposing Hindi imposition in 1965, Hindi would have been the sole official language of India from January 26, 1965, the date stipulated in the Indian Constitution. Hindianization of India would have been complete long ago, but for the Tamil people. Because of the opposition from Tamil people, the Indian Government now takes a slow approach of quietly imposing Hindi in small incremental steps. Instead of driving a nail quickly and forcibly into your head, now they are tightening the screws slowly. Both have the same effect but the latter takes longer. This slow approach frustrates many Hindi politicians, elite and the educated and they hold a grudge against the Tamil people.

4. Some Hindia People "Celebrated" Annadurai's Death!

My friend was at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi in the 1960s. Hindi students used to ask him, "Why are you people (Tamils) opposed Hindi becoming the sole official language?" They considered it unpatriotic and an act of treason. When the DMK General-Secretary and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai died in the late 1960s, some of his Hindi friends brought him halva (a sweet) to "celebrate" the death because, in those days, Annadurai was a symbol of Tamil resistance to Hindi imposition.

5. Karnataka is Discriminated Too

Hindi politicians may have a special dislike for the Tamil people but let us not forget that they discriminate against all non-Hindi states. Karnataka State and the Kannadiga people are discriminated too.

Let us look at industrial development in Karnataka. How many industries did the Indian Government set up in Karnataka as compared to in the Hindi belt? (The spectacular growth of software industry in Karnataka is the doing of Karnataka software professionals, entrepreneurs and the state government. Without the Indian government taking so much central government taxes out of Karnataka to aid the Hindi belt, Karnataka's growth would be even higher.) Adjusted for population, in every five-year plan since the 1950s, outlay for public sector projects in Karnataka is less than 80% of the population-adjusted outlay for the Hindi belt. Is it not discrimination against Karnataka?

Kannada politicians are also sidelined on the national scene. When Karnataka's Hegde emerged as a possible candidate to become Indian Prime Minister, Hindi politicians from his own party went on a covert campaign to malign him (see Section 8 of "Who Rules India?", TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000). After Karnataka's Deve Gowda became Indian Prime Minister in 1996 with the support of Andhra's Naidu and Tamil Nadu's Karunanidhi, Hindi politicians worked hard to get him ousted, and ousted they did (see Section 11 of "Who Rules India?", TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000).

6. Divide and Rule Strategy

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and most of non-Hindi states are discriminated by the Indian Government. People of Karnataka and people of Tamil Nadu are natural allies in opposing this Hindi domination of Indian politics and discriminating against non-Hindi people, be it Kannadigas Tamils, Bengalis, or ...Infighting between us helps only Hindi poloiticians. They are using the same divide and rule strategy of the British. At the time British were consolidating their hold over South India, they encouraged wars between the Mysore and Travancore (Mysore is now a major part of Karnataka and Travancore a major part of Kerala). Eventually the British subjugated both nations! Hindi politiciabns are playing the same game. They are setting up Kannadigas against the Tamils and Tamils against the Kannadigas, thus diverting our attention from Hindi discrimination of both of us. Let us resolve our differences amicably. We are brothers and sisters. We are neighbors. We have a common Dravidian heritage. Let us be friends.

7. A New Era of Friendship

Recently, after the release of Rajkumar at the intercession of a Tamil Nadu editor, Tamil leaders and human rights activists, a new feeling of goodwill between Kannadigas and Tamils has emerged. It seems that we are at the dawn of a new era of friendship, cooperation and harmony. A Karnataka college invited Tamil Nationalist leader Nedumaran and honored him for his effort in getting Rajkumar released. Nedumaran, after his speech in English, promised them that he would speak in Kannada the next time.

Tamil poet Thiru Valluvar's statue will be installed in the Karnataka capital Bangalore and Kannada poet Sarvajna's statue in Tamil Nadu capital Chennai.

Rajkumar told at a press conference that he would take a bride for his son from Tamil Nadu thus solidifying Kannada-Tamil unity. Whether Rajkumar's son marries from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra or Karnataka, Rajkumar's expression of friendship to the Tamil people has much significance. He is undoubtedly the most loved Kannadiga today. His words carry much weight with the people of Karnataka.

Let there be peace between our people!

We are neighbors. We are brothers. We are sisters.

Let us be friends!


Cauvery River Water Dispute and Karnataka Massacres: Part 1 (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 1998 (22 KB)

Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000 (44 KB) (see, specifically, Sections 8 and 11)

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