On 7 August 2018, almost a year ago, M. Karunanidhi- five time chief minister of Tamil Nadu died in Kauvery Hospital in Chennai. 94 year old Karunanidhi was last icon of South India’s and primarily Tamil Nadu’s ‘Dravidian politics’, the foundations of which trace back to the contentious ‘Aryan invasion theory’. The Aryan Invasion theory has been amply propagated by those with vested interests, for decades, but after a DNA study on skeletons found in Rakhigarhi, the very basis of the Aryan Invasion Theory stands wrecked.
The foundations of the Aryan Invasion theory were based on ‘unscientific claims’, it was more of a ‘normative theory’, fabricated to rationalize British rule in India. After colonization of India, the British wanted to know about the people they ruled, and this created a new area of study- Indology. The early phase of such Indic studies involved the European interpretation of Indian culture. The European academics, and the British government which sponsored their study of India, wanted to justify British rule over native population.
The European academics found similarities between Sanskrit, Persian and the Greek language. This prepared the base for ‘interrelating’ European and Indian people, and therefore, justifying the British rule in India. So, Max Muller proposed the theory of two Aryan races- western and Eastern. According to Mueller, the western Aryan race conquered and inhabited Europe while the Eastern Aryan race invaded the Indian subcontinent, pushing the native population (Dravidian people) to South India, and establishing a Vedic civilization.
The Aryan Invasion theory created a North-South divide in the country. The Southern Indians were called the ‘darker-skinned’ descendants of a destroyed Indus Valley civilization while North Indians were the ‘lighter-skinned’ descendents of Vedic Civilization. Politics in the south has been wrapped around this botched theory only meant to incite fault-lines between the North and the south.
The politicians from Tamil Nadu were the first ones to capitalize on this new fault line. Tamil Brahmins, who were well versed in Sanskrit, were labeled as representatives of the ‘Aryan race’ and civilization. The administration of Madras Presidency was completely dominated by Tamil Brahmins, and to eradicate this Brahmin hegemony, the non-Brahmins invoked the Aryan invasion theory. The non-Brahmins proposed that Brahmins migrated from North India and established themselves as the ruling class in Southern states.
The Dravidian movement, started in mid 1910s propagated that ‘Aryans’ first destroyed their glorious civilization and now they are ruling the Dravidians through hegemonic representation in government services.
M. Nair and P Theagarya Chetty started the Justice Party to fight for the rights of non-Brahmins. The early Dravidian moment got a new leader named Periyar E. V. Ramasamy who demanded an independent Dravidian state for speakers of so called Dravidian languages- Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada. The Dravidian movement led by Periyar gained currency in Tamil Nadu in 1930s and 1950s. But the other Southern states did not join the bigoted herd.
Periyar created ‘Brahmin enemy’ for other non-Brahmin castes, and this ‘majoritarian practice’ worked very well. He expressed time and again his desire to practice an Adolf Hitler style of regime and used the magazine which he edited to warn Brahmins in Tamil Nadu that they should learn from the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany and opt for course correction. Periyar has made statements such as, “The Brahmin is the root of caste. To eradicate caste, we must eradicate the Brahmin”.
In August 1944, Periyar created the ‘Dravidar Kazhagham’ out of the Justice Party to further his bigoted agenda through administrative power, although he never got it. A few years after foundation of DK, Periyar married a young woman Maniammai and appointed her successor.
This led to rebellion by several of his followers led by C. N Anndurai and M Karunanidhi- who was a popular screenwriter by then, and these rebels incepted a new party named Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
DMK has been famous for its anti-Hindu and anti-Brahmin bigotry in the garb of Dravidian ideology. This anti-Hindu stance is amply clear from the statements of late DMK President M. Karunanidhi who said, “Lord Rama is a drunkard“. The late president has also remarked that the term ‘Hindu’ means ‘thief’. He stated, “Who is a Hindu? You must ask Periyar EVR. A good man would say the word Hindu means a thief.”
In 1967, C N Annadurai led DMK won the Madras legislative assembly election and Annadurai became chief minister. Since then, the politics of Tamil Nadu has been dominated by DMK and AIADMK (both Dravidian parties), with most of time these parties being elected alternatively. The politics of Tamil Nadu has also been characterized by anti-North Indian, anti- Hindu sentiments.
The British left created and left many faultlines in the polity of the Indian state. Two most prominent fault lines are -‘rigid’ definition of highly flexible caste system and the other being North-South divide. With the new conclusion of DNA study, the premise of Aryan invasion theory and consequently, the Aryan-Dravidian divide has been proved false. Karunanidhi may not have lived to see this day where the Aryan Invasion Theory is disproved for good, but the contemporary politicians of Tamil Nadu must get the gist by now. The politics of leaders like MK Stalin and Kamal Haaan could be deemed irrelevant for being based on a false historical theory.