Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Freudian Slip That Shows North Is North And South Is South

It's interesting that it's usually North Indians who have so far always angrily denied the existence of a separate Dravidian (South Indian) identity. One of the ideological mavens of the Neo-Hindu movement, Rajiv Malhotra, even characterises the Dravidian identity as one of the forces that seek to break India.

In Rajiv Malhotra's eyes, an assertive Dravidian identity is a fissiparous and dangerous one that threatens the unity and integrity of India

A large part of the Hindutva ideology's energies are devoted to denying the two-race theory in all its forms. [While the Aryan Invasion Theory may or may not be valid in its literal form, there is enough genetic evidence that North Indians and South Indians differ significantly in the proportions of the genes they inherit from two distinct genetic groups.]

It's therefore amusing to hear a North Indian admit, however inadvertently, that South Indians are a distinct racial group ("black people", in his words). BJP MP Tarun Vijay's interview to Al Jazeera, where he sought to deny the racism of Indians against Africans by using an unfortunate example of "black people" (South Indians) within India, has sent shock waves through the country.

The moment of truth, when a mask slipped before millions

Now, Tarun Vijay is not a bad guy at all. I remember that he was once pelted with stones by traditionalists for his admirable attempt to open up temples to Dalits. His inadvertent comment about South Indians being "black people" is all the more significant for that reason. He's not a conscious bigot, probably quite the opposite, since he has put his life and limb on the line more than once in the interests of eradicating social injustice. However, his unthinking remark only shows how deep-rooted the idea is within many North Indians that South Indians are a different race of people from themselves, and there is an element of condescension there too ("We live with these people. How can you call us racist?" instead of "We're the same people").

To my mind, the root of Hindi language chauvinism comes from this inherent sense of superiority. If North Indians truly respected South Indians, there would be a more sincere attempt to implement the three-language formula, in place of the current lopsided emphasis (budgetary and otherwise) on the propagation of Hindi at the expense of every other Indian language.

Hopefully, this momentary slip of the mask will make South Indians more aware of where they stand in the eyes of the country's dominant group, and make them more assertive about their linguistic and cultural identity. The common examples of Japan, Germany and Korea will not wash. Those countries have only one language of their own. India has at least 25 major ones, and hundreds of dialects. It's of course a logistical nightmare, and the solution won't be simple, but India's communication problem will not be solved by imposing one North Indian language on everyone in the country, especially not when it is done out of a sense of cultural and racial superiority.

Clearly, North is North, and South is South, but if the twain are to live amicably together in one country, mutual respect is a non-negotiable condition.
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