For the BJP/RSS, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were more ideological battlegrounds than West Bengal, as Bengal politics was operating very much within the Dwija control.

A collage of Chief Ministers MK Stalin, Mamata Bannerjee and Pinarayi Vijayan.
Voices Opinion Friday, May 14, 2021 - 15:03

Stalin was a Russian ruler who did not believe in god. He shaped the post World War II world. He died on March 5, 1953. Karunanidhi, the famous Dravidian leader, while mourning his death in a meeting declared that his just born son (born on March 1, 1953) would be named Stalin. In 1953, Karunanidhi was with the DMK . He was an atheist like his mentors Anna and Periyar.

That son of Karunanidhi's told the nation recently that Tamil Nadu is a Dravidian land that would not allow the BJP/RSS to take it back to the varna-caste system — which has been hugely weakened by the Dravidian party's victory in the 2021 state Assembly elections. He defeated the AIADMK and BJP combine, and became the Chief Minister of the state at 68. Stalin’s ancestors were barber-musicians around temples, and his father became a famous writer, politician and five-time CM of Tamil Nadu. 

In the south, the RSS is known as an Aryan organisation with a vision of putting the varna order into the proper Vedic form again in the country. If there is any movement that disturbed that order by giving marching orders to Aryan Brahmanism, it was the DK movement. The DMK is its political successor. Annadurai, Karunanidhi and now Stalin are its flag bearers. MGR and Jayalalithaa were actually trojan horses, and perhaps Jayalalithaa would be the last Brahmin to rule the state.

The BJP/RSS entered that state through the backdoor by using Jayalalithaa’s silent support to Hindutva expansion. Jayalalithaa played a double edged role in the state — Dravidian in form, but Brahmin in content.

The BJP/RSS could not threaten Stalin as much as they did Mamata Benerjee in West Bengal, who also started running around temples and claiming that she was Bengali Brahmin beti. Granted, the atheist Stalin too had to pick up the Vel in his hand to counter accusations of being anti-Hindu. But the two are not comparable because one inherits a Dravidian cultural history and the other inherits the Brahminic history.

The BJP/RSS, by using Shudra-Namashudra (Dalit) mobilisation, made the Bengali Bhadralok (Brahmin, Kayastha and Baidhyas) give up their secular-communist claims. The CPI(M) closed ranks in Bengal as it refused to see the existence of casteism among the Bhadralok. The BJP/RSS used the Shudra/OBC and Dalit aspiration to come to power in a state of Bhadralok unending hegemony and control after 1947. No Shudra or Namashudra or Muslim (Muslims constitute 27% of the state’s population) could become the Chief Minister of that state. The Kerala communist movement however went in the opposite direction — and hence, it survived. The productive Shudra (they call avarna) and Dalits captured the communist movement after EMS Namboodripad’s era ended.

The BJP/RSS could not play their tricks in Kerala, the land of Narayana Guru and Ayyankali. Pinarayi Vijayan, who came from Guru’s Ezhava community and became the commander of communist party, showed the door to Modi and Shah. He became the first communist leader to come to power for a second consecutive time.

Both Tamil Nadu and Kerala have made south India proud by telling the BJP/RSS that the south has a strong Dravidian-Shudra heritage. West Bengal on the other hand operated in the domain of Aryan Hindu casteist cultural heritage, without allowing the Shudra-Namasudra identities to come to the fore. In fact, the Bengali renaissance of Raja Rammohun Roy and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, operated on the same Aryan Brahmin control pad. Whereas the southern renaissance initiated by Mahatma Phule (1827-1890), Iyothidasa (1845-1912), Narayana Guru (1856-1928) and carried forward by Periyar, brought about an anti- caste cultural revolution. Abolition of caste or weakening caste never were agendas of Maharastrian and Bengali Brahmanism. Whereas the Dravidian social justice ideology influenced the anti-caste and human equality movements across the country

Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan represent that ethos. If the Kerala communists do not realise that, they too will go the way Bengal communists went, in future. It was the anti-caste movements that saved the communist ideology in Kerala. 

Tamil Nadu has shown a post-colonial path for Shudra/OBC reservation as Ambedkar’s Mahar movement has shown a path for Dalit reservation in colonial times. Stalin has to carry that struggle forward.

Kerala has shown socialist democratic welfarism with an anti-caste implementation of those welfare policies. Such egalitarian welfarism proved to be a better model than Modi’s Gujarat model in every respect. Its Muslim and Christian minorities felt safe in Pinarayi’s hands than in Congress’s hands.

The Congress’s stand on Sabarimala women’s equality proved to be disastrous. Shashi Tharoor’s unending claim that he is a better Hindu than Mohan Bhagwat and Modi by writing book after book on ‘why he is a Hindu’ proved to be untrustworthy. He was trying to hide his Shudra (Nair) background and behaving like a Namboodiri himself. Such Congressism was disliked by all OBCs/Dalits and women of Kerala. After a massive anti-women’s equality mobilisation of the Congress and BJP in Kerala, Vijayan’s winning is a game changer.

In Tamil Nadu the BJP/RSS played many tricks. They wanted a coalition of AIADMK and BJP to come to power and break the back of Dravidian political history. But Stalin has shown them the door. For the BJP/RSS, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were more ideological battlegrounds than West Bengal, as Bengal politics was operating very much within the Dwija control. Mohan Bhagwat did not hate Mamata as much as he hated Stalin and Pinarayi.

The next three years will be significant for India. With BJP/RSS’s failure to stop the dance of death of corona with an army of superstition, that it built over 95 years by foregrounding myth and negating science, what will India do? There is an increased opposition to the BJP/RSS even in the northern states. If the south escapes with lesser deaths in the corona crisis, the whole north will also tilt towards science and medicine by moving away from myth. That depends on what kind of administration Stalin and Pinarayi provide in future.

(Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist. His latest book is 'The Shudras — Vision For a New Path', co-edited with Karthik Raja Karuppusamy.)

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