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The idea of Dravida Nadu

Dravida Nadu is a nice daydreamespecially if you live within its geographic boundariesbut it is only a flawed solution to the battles being fought in New India

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam working president M.K. Stalin’s hope that the southern states will unite to demand autonomy for a separate Dravida Nadu is not a new idea but it is certainly one that has regained popularity in recent times. “If it comes, it would be welcome," Stalin said last week. “We hope that such a situation arises."

Imagine that. Could I really become a resident of Dravida Nadu, comprising the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and the Union territory of Puducherry? There would be advantages, of course, chief among them being broadband speed and news anchors who would pronounce Yeddyurappa and Venkataraman correctly.

Sure, the north has size, the Himalayas and a higher number of Lok Sabha seats, but south India is queen of indicators that will guarantee us a better future. Plus there’s so much sea. If the south is your amazing educated sister who has the potential to quietly change the world, the north has always been that scruffy, roughneck brother you must monitor closely to ensure he doesn’t self-destruct. So far you’ve been suffering him quietly because he’s your family, your responsibility.

Of course, the south has no shortage of goons, perverts and cranks. Karnataka’s culture of quirkily named rowdies is legendary. But the law and order machinery of the southern states is clearly better at controlling the ugly side of their citizenry. Religiosity is often displayed more in south India than in the north, but not as an accompaniment to violence.

Quick quiz before we proceed: Who said the following, a north Indian or a south Indian? “Our demands include re-establishment of Ram Rajya, inclusion of the Ramayan in syllabus of schools and colleges, week-offs on Thursday instead of Sundays and a declaration of a day as Vishwa Hindu Diwas." Answer: A north Indian who is currently leading a 41-day Ram Rajya Rath Yatra to promote the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, according to a report in Hindustan Times.

Which statement is more divisive? The one Stalin made or the one I’ve quoted in the quiz? North India and south India are likely to pick differently.

In the unlikely event that the age-old north India vs south India idea goes beyond a debate, I’m glad Bengaluru, where I live, is on the right side of that border.

For one, my seven-year-old daughter is interested in science. I’d rather she grew up in the land of Isro scientists who work to explore Mars and missile woman Tessy Thomas, a Syrian Christian born in Kerala, than the India where myths are muscling out history and science. In upper India, they believe that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong. They swear that cow dung can cure cancer, the cow is the only animal that inhales and exhales oxygen, and that Indians had figured out how to fly in the time of the Ramayan. According to Bharatiya Janata Party minister Harsh Vardhan’s Twitter feed, “Even Stephen Hawking said our Vedas might have a theory superior to Einstein’s law E=MC2". Of course this was refuted.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently told the 105th Indian Science Congress it was time to “redefine R&D as research for the development of the nation" and that we needed to inculcate a “scientific temper among the youth", I couldn’t help but remember the time he cited Lord Ganesha’s elephant head as proof that plastic surgery existed in ancient India, and Karna’s birth as evidence of genetic science.

Was Karna even real? That’s a question you are more likely to hear in south India. Modi’s own government has appointed a panel to prove that Hindu scriptures are fact, not myth, according to Reuters. In north India, they define science differently.

If south India becomes Dravida Nadu, I can start watching television news again. Bye-bye prime-time debates on Pakistan, China and whether or not India has the capability to fight a war on two fronts. No more pinning every modern Indian problem from traffic to the agrarian crisis on Rahul Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. In independent south India, television debates will have to go beyond the latest illiterate statement made by a public figure and the divine importance of a domesticated animal. News will have to be redefined.

Talking of domesticated animals, south India is united in its love for cattle. The two regions can probably conduct trade that makes everybody happy. North India can have south India’s share of broilers pumped with antibiotics in exchange for all the abandoned cattle that’s roaming the cow belt. South India can continue to mix its rice and millets with whatever it wants, keeping politics and religion off its plate.

Of course, south India is a better place for women. The region doesn’t need an empty slogan to educate its girls. Its child sex ratios are higher than the northern states. When all the unemployed young men swarming the northern states do something more horrible than harassing women on Holi, south India will be insulated. And talking of Holi, that favourite festival of north Indian men, it’s a no-show in south India.

Of course, as we have seen in all best-selling dystopian young adult fiction, the moment you divide a society into parts—whether it’s Panem’s wealthy Capitol region, surrounded by its 12 poorer districts, in the Hunger Games series, or the Divergent series’ society that is split into five factions, each driven by a particular virtue (honest, selfless, brave, peaceful and intelligent)—there is only one possible outcome: war.

Dravida Nadu is a nice daydream—especially if you live within its geographic boundaries—but it is only a flawed solution to the battles being fought in New India. If the south really has a different vision of New India, it must work harder to reclaim it. The faster the region’s politicians understand this, the better it will be for all of us.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

She tweets at @priyaramani

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