Hinduism, Indian Unity and Tamil Nadu Independence
TAMIL TRIBUNE, October 2009 (ID. 2009-10-01)
India is not a "natural" nation. The country called India (or Indian Union) consists of a number of nations such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, etc. Each one of these nations has a distinct cultural, ethnic and language identity and well-defined boundaries. Hindi state politicians rule this multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual country because they form the largest group in Indian parliament and get a majority by joining hands with politicians from some of the other minority nations. Hindi belt states benefit enormously because their political clout in parliament. Their standard of living would be much lower had not been for the transfer of tax monies from the more industrious non-Hindi states to the Hindi states [Reference 1]. Hindi language and Hindi-northern culture also get uplift at the expense of other languages and cultures. India's foreign and defense policies are formulated for the protection and benefit of Hindi states, even if it adversely affects others.
Hindi state politicians whose states and people thus benefit extensively from the existence of this multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual Indian Union try to hold on to the current status by invoking Hinduism and saying that any break up of the Indian Union into its natural constituent nations such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, etc. would be detrimental to Hinduism. By invoking a religious argument for the existence of Indian Union, they pull at the heart strings of Hindus of non-Hindi states, although the only ones benefiting from this Indian Union are the people of Hindi belt states; most other states lose out, including the Hindus of those non-Hindi states.
Are Hindus being protected and their welfare taken care everywhere because a large Hindu-majority country called India exists? Will Hindus be harmed if this Indian Union is broken up to the constituent natural nations? Will Hinduism weaken or die if this Indian Union is broken up to the constituent natural nations? These questions are addressed in this article in order to counter the false argument that any break up of the Indian Union into its natural constituent nations would be detrimental to Hinduism and Hindus.
I know very well that neither Tamil Nadu independence movement nor Tamil Eelam independence war is based on Hinduism or any other religious argument. They are based on Tamil nationalism. Yet, in this article, I put religion at the centre of the debate and make reference to Hinduism several times because arguments against Tamil Nadu independence on religious grounds can only be countered by making reference to religion.
2. Religion does not Bond Together Diverse Nations
Although Hinduism is the majority religion of most states of India, it had never been a politically unifying force of the diverse nations that constitute the current India. What brought together the diverse nationalities such as Bengalis, Gujaratis, Hindis, Maharashtrians, Malayalis, Tamils, Telugus, etc. was not Hinduism or any other religion but British guns. British conquered the various kingdoms one by one and brought them together into a single administrative unit. When the time came for the British to leave South Asia in 1947, the British India was divided into India and Pakistan on religious ground (most Hindu majority regions were combined into India and most Muslim majority regions were combined into Pakistan).
The fact that religion does not bond together diverse nations into a single country is clearly evident from the break up Pakistan. Muslim-majority East Pakistan wanted to separate from the Muslim-majority Pakistan because of discrimination in economic development and language. East Pakistan eventually separated from Pakistan and became a separate country, Bangladesh. It did weaken Pakistan militarily and economically but it did not weaken Muslim religion or the Muslim people. If anything, there is now one more Muslim-majority nation and vote in the United Nations (UN) and other world bodies.
Most European nations are Christians. Yet they want to be separate countries on the basis of primarily language. They do not want to be a single nation in the name of Christianity. [Note: European Union is a union of sovereign nations; not a country. Each nation has the right to leave the European Union; this is not the case with Indian Union.]
In short, religion has, at times, been a divisive force in dividing nations on religious grounds but has never been an agent to integrate diverse nations into a single country.
So citing Hinduism as the reason against independence for Tamil Nadu is invalid and flawed. It is the Hindi states that benefit economically from the existence of India at the expense of many non-Hindi states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka. All people of Tamil Nadu, irrespective of their religion, would economically benefit from Tamilnadu independence.
Hindi politicians do everything that is necessary to protect their interest even if it harms other states-even if it is harmful to non-Hindi Hindus. Here are two examples.
3. India is for the Benefit of Hindis, not Hindus [Hindians, Hindis - People whose mother tongue is Hindi]
3.1 Example-1: The Case of Sri Lankan Tamils
There is an ethnic conflict between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese are mostly Buddhists with some Muslims and Christians. Tamils are mostly Hindus with sizable numbers of Muslims and some Christians.
Tamils never considered the conflict as a religious conflict (Hindus versus Buddhists). Tamils have always considered it an ethnic conflict or a national war of independence. On the other side, however, the Sinhalese projected it as a two-pronged war: The Sinhala Nation against Tamils, and the Buddhists against Hindus. Hindu religious leaders or priests of the Tamil community were never at the forefront of the Eelam independence movement; they kept themselves to religious duties at temples. On the contrary, Buddhist priests were at the forefront of the movement against giving adequate devolution of power to minority Tamils, and projected the ethnic conflict as a religious war between Buddhists and Hindus.
What did the Hindi politicians who talk of the need for Indian Unity for the protection of Hindus do? They sided with the Sinhalese in the ethnic war. It is not just the "secular" Congress Party, it is also the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
3.1.1 Indian BJP Government Actions Against Sri Lankan Tamils (2000)
Year 2000 was a critical period in the Sri Lankan ethnic war between Sinhalese and Tamils. Tamil freedom fighters, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), had the upper hand and were about to take the entire north including Jaffna City. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power in India. It moved 15,000 Indian soldiers to the southern city of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) to help the Sri Lankan military if needed. MORE IMPORTANTLY, Indian government worked with its long-term enemy, the Muslim-majority Pakistan, to beef up Sri Lankan military. Jane's Intelligence Digest reported in June 2000 that India and Pakistan were cooperating with each other to help Sri Lanka in its war against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). According to Jane's Intelligence Digest, weapons and ammunition, including artillery shells and multi-barrel rocket launchers, were airlifted in an emergency operation from Karachi to Colombo with Indian cooperation. It is these weapons and ammunition that saved the Sri Lankan army in Jaffna. But for Indian-Pakistani cooperation in helping the Sri Lankan military against LTTE, Tamils would have achieved a decisive military victory liberating the entire north. Thus the Hindu fundamentalist BJP government cooperated with in archenemy, the Muslim-majority Pakistan, in supporting the Buddhist-majority Sri Lankan hegemony over Hindu-majority Tamils of Sri Lanka. This example alone is enough to demolish the argument that "Indian Unity" is necessary for protecting Hindus. United India is for the benefit of Hindis--not Hindus, definitely not Tamil Hindus.
3.1.2 Indian Congress Government Actions Against Sri Lankan Tamils (2008-2009)
Another critical time in the history of the Sri Lankan ethnic war was 2008-2009. This time the Sri Lankan military had the upper hand and LTTE was retreating from position to position. Congress Party was in power in India this time. It played a key role in beefing up the Sri Lankan military by supplementing the military hardware Sri Lanka purchased from Pakistan and China. Although India's military help is shrouded in secrecy, some parts of Indian help have come to light in various news reports. Indian military help included gifts of five Mi-17 helicopters, which according to military analysts played a critical role in the war, and radars to thwart LTTE air strikes. India also helped Sri Lankan Navy against the powerful Sea Tigers (LTTE naval wing), providing intelligence of LTTE movements, identifying LTTE weapons ships and helping in their destruction. [Details of India's secret military help to Sri Lanka may be found in the book "Sri Lanka: From War to Peace" by Nitin Anant Gokhale, NDTV's Defense and Strategic Affairs Editor.] The war ended with the decimation of LTTE in May 2009, with 20,000 Tamil civilians killed in the last few months of the war and the surviving 280,000 Tamils from the war zone put in camps surrounded by barbed wire fences and guarded by Sri Lankan soldiers. Access to these camps was denied or severely restricted even to relief agencies. Some western reports compared these camps to Nazi concentration camps. Here again, the Hindu-majority India helped Buddhist-majority Sri Lankan government defeat and subdue Hindu-majority Sri Lankan Tamils? So there is no logic in the argument that a powerful India is for the protection of Hindus. A large India is for the protection and benefit of Hindis--not Hindus, definitely not Tamil Hindus.
India not only helped Sri Lanka militarily but also helped it diplomatically against criticism and potential sanctions from western democracies. India led an effort in late May 2009 (May 26 and 27) to block a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC); the resolution asked Sri Lanka to give unfettered access to relief agencies to the camps where the 280,000 Tamils were held in appalling conditions. Thus Tamil civilians were denied relief from international agencies willing and able to help them. India again came to help Sri Lanka diplomatically in July 2009. America and Britain opposed an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Sri Lanka in order to pressure Sri Lanka to allow more access to international humanitarian agencies to the camps. The Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror reported that India asked the visiting American Secretary of State Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton to support the IMF loan. America and Britain abstained from voting and the loan was granted to Sri Lanka. These Indian government diplomatic actions show that Hindu-majority India used its diplomatic clout against the Hindu-majority Tamils. So the argument that Indian unity is essential for the protection of Hindus is invalid. Indian unity is essential for the good of Hindis and not necessarily Hindus--definitely not Tamil Hindus.
3.2 Example-2: The Case of Tamil Nadu Fishermen
Sri Lankan Navy has been shooting and killing Tamilnadu fishermen for over two decades. July 16, 2008 issue of Dinamani stated that Sri Lankan navy had shot and killed over 800 fishermen in the past 25 years. It further added that over 250 had been killed just in the past 2 years (that is July 2006 to July 2008). India has a large and powerful navy and it could sink the entire Sri Lankan fleet in just a day. Yet this tiny Sri Lankan navy is shooting and killing Tamil Nadu fishermen with India doing nothing effective. Sri Lanka knows well that Indian Navy is not going to act against it for shooting and killing Tamil Nadu fishermen; otherwise it would not dare to do it.
Two theories are around for India's inaction. (1) Both Hindi upper class and Sinhalese consider themselves Aryans, and Hindi rulers of India do not want to retaliate against fellow Aryans because some Dravidian Tamil fishermen are killed. According to Sinhala legend, their ancestors came to Sri Lanka from northern India. (2) India does not want to offend Sri Lanka lest it sides with India's northern enemies China and Pakistan. (Sri Lanka currently takes a neutral position.) In other words, India's Hindi rulers look the other way as Tamil Nadu fishermen are killed in order to protect its northern borders and lands closer to Hindi states. In essence, whichever theory is valid, India is sacrificing Tamil Nadu fishermen (many of them Hindus) in order to protect the north. So, where is the protection for Hindu fishermen of Tamil Nadu from the powerful India? This again demolishes the argument that Indian Unity is essential for the protection of Hindus. India is for the benefit of Hindis, not necessarily Hindus--definitely not Tamil Hindus.
If Tamil Nadu were an independent country with its own navy, Tamil Nadu Navy would have stopped the killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen when the shooting started some 25 years ago. 800 Tamil Nadu fishermen would not have been sacrificed in the sea. In other words a smaller Tamil Nadu Navy would definitely have protected the fishermen but the mightier India Navy did not. So what is the purpose in having a mightier military that seems to be for the protection of Hindis, not necessarily Hindus--definitely not Tamil Hindus.
Hindus of other non-Hindi states like Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal should also watch out. If they are under attack, help may not come from India mighty military if it is in the interest of Hindis to ignore those attacks.
4. Two Hindu-Majority Nations or Four Hindu-Majority Nations?
There are about a dozen Muslim majority nations. They all join together in the United Nations (UN) and other international bodies when they think Muslims are affected anywhere in the world. So why not four Hindu-majority nations (India, Nepal, Tamil Nadu and Tamil Eelam) instead of the present two (India and Nepal)? Does it not give more clout to Hindus in United Nations and elsewhere? [I am putting forth this argument just to counter the argument that "one India" is essential to protect Hindus. All religions would have equal rights in independent Tamil Nadu as is currently the case in India and many other countries.]
5. Religion in Independent Tamil Nadu
As far as religion is concerned, I do not see any difference between the current situation in Tamil Nadu under Indian rule and in the independent Tamil Nadu. Like India, independent Tamil Nadu would have a majority Hindu population but it would be a secular country like India. There would be no discrimination on the basis of religion, and people would be free to worship anyway they want. There would be no prohibition on Tamil prayers or Tamil hymns in religious places; similarly there would be no prohibition if someone wants to say prayers or sing hymns in another language. There would be no discrimination on the basis of caste. Anyone can pray in any place of worship irrespective of caste. Anyone can become a priest irrespective of caste as long as the individual has the necessary education and experience. [By the way, these are the laws in Tamil Nadu today under Indian rule.] Hindus or people of other religions need have no fear that independent Tamil Nadu would be anti-Hindu or anti-religion or anti-God. Today's Tamil Nadu Independence Movement is not the Dravida Nadu Movement of 1940s and 1950s headed by Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) that had an atheist anti-Hindu agenda. Overwhelming Tamil nationalists of today are neither atheists nor anti-Hindu. Look at the Tamil Eelam independence movement that almost succeeded.
6. Look at Tamil Eelam Areas that were almost Independent
For well over a decade, from the 1990s to 2008, a de facto Tamil country did exist in the Sri Lankan island. Large areas of northeastern Sri Lanka and several hundred thousand Tamils were ruled by Tamils (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)). Those who are afraid that Hinduism would die or discriminated in independent Tamil Nadu should look at what happened there. The "government" run by LTTE did not interfere in temple affairs in any way. Temples functioned as usual. People worshipped as usual. The same would be the situation in independent Tamil Nadu too. Today's Tamil Nadu independence movement and Tamil Eelam movement are both based on Tamil nationalism with no religious or anti-religious agenda.
7. Mother India (Bharat Matha) - Don't Cut off Her Legs
Depicting Mother India (Bharat Matha) as a Hindu Goddess and comparing Tamil Nadu separating from India as cutting off of Mother India's legs are the work of northern-Aryan-Hindi leaders who want to keep India intact because it benefits them at the expense of many non-Hindi states. India as a country was formed by the British just a couple of centuries ago for administrative convenience but Hinduism is an ancient religion dating back thousands of years. Yes, there were religious pilgrimages from one region of South Asia to another even before India was a country. There would be such pilgrimages after Tamil Nadu separates from India too. There is no need for Tamil Nadu to continue to be part of India if the only one to benefit are the Hindis, and Tamils have to bear the burden of Hindi imposition, economic discrimination, killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen and the slow but sure destruction of Tamil identity and culture [You may find detailed discussions of these "burdens" in Reference 2.]
Tamil Nadu had two golden ages in known history. The first golden age was during the days of First Tamil Academy (First Tamil Sangam) some 2000 years ago, and second one was about a thousand years ago during the Second Chola Dynasty. Tamil Nadu was not part of India during these two golden ages. During that time Tamil culture and Hinduism both flourished in Tamil Nadu.
The second golden age of Tamilnadu started with Emperor Raja Raja Cholan. He was not only a great warrior king but also a devote Hindu. He built the famous Thanjai Periya Kovil (Tanjore Big Temple), one of the holiest Sivan temples in the world. His son Rajendra Cholan built the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Kovil rivaling the majesty of Thanjai Periya Kovil. Tamil Nadu was not part of India at that time. While Raja Raja Cholan was a very devote Hindu and built temples and provided generously for their care, he never persecuted other religions. He not only permitted Silendra Emperor Srimara Vijayottunga Varman to build the Buddhist shrine Chudamanivihara at Nagapattinam (Tamil Nadu), he also contributed money for its construction. The independent Tamil Nadu would also have similar religious policy of nurturing all religions and persecuting none.
8. Concluding Remarks
There is absolutely no basis for the argument that India in its present form is needed to protect Hindus and Hinduism. Hinduism existed for millennia before the country of India was created by British rulers a couple of centuries ago. Tamil Nadu was never a part of India before the British rule, yet Hinduism flourished in Tamil Nadu. Look at the majestic temples in Thanjavur (Thanjai), Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Madurai, Rameswaram, Thiruvannamalai and Thiruchendur--all built well before Tamil Nadu became part of India. Look at the literature like Kamba Ramayanam, Villi Bharatham, Thevaram, Thiruvasagam and Alwars' hymns--all written when Tamilnadu was not part of India. Likewise Hinduism and other religions will continue to flourish when Tamil Nadu separates from India and becomes independent again.
Do not allow Hindi politicians to fool us that Hinduism is in danger if Tamil Nadu separates from India. As we have illustrated in the preceding sections, the current India benefits only Hindis, not Hindus--definitely not Tamil Hindus. Had Tamil Nadu been an independent country Tamil of Sri Lanka would not have been massacred in the thousands in 2008-2009. Had Tamil Nadu been an independent country, Sri Lankan military would not have killed some 800 Tamil Nadu fishermen. Yet India that had the military power to stop these Tamil deaths in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, chose not to act because being tough on Sri Lanka was not in the interests of Hindis although most of the Tamils killed are Hindus. Indian unity is for the protection of Hindis--not Hindus, definitely not Tamil Hindus.
So let us not be fooled by faulty religious arguments. Let us work for Tamil Nadu independence.
1. Archived articles on Economic Discrimination of Tamil Nadu by Indian Government (OR Search the internet with the following key words: economic discrimination Tamil Nadu India )
2. Why Independence (Freedom) for Tamil Nadu from Indian Rule? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 1999 (20 KB)
1. Hinduism and Tamil Nationalism (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2007 (8 KB)
EDITORIAL NOTE: Some names are spelled differently by different people. Here are some variations of names used in this article:
Alwars - Azhwars, Azwars
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