Separatists and fringe elements would seek to thrive in constituencies where the Right refuses to seize the narrative

When Yasin Malik attended a fringe Tamil nationalist rally in Madurai Cuddalore a few days ago many on the Right saw red. Quick repartees on the pro-Sri Lankan Tamil movement’s certifiably anti-national character were made. It was, in their view, a vindication of their unsympathetic stand on Indian support to Sri Lankan Tamils.

On this issue it is amusing how the Right has made an art of shooting itself on the foot and then duly feeling very proud about it.

The fact is Tamil Nadu BJP is paying for not speaking the political language of the state for two decades. The state unit’s preachy nationalism and unthinking opposition to any forms of regional initiatives has ensured the party remains an electoral non-entity.

When it comes to Sri Lankan Tamils the line adopted by commentators on the Right is completely out of sync with the popular idioms of Tamil politics. Their inability to reconcile with strong regional sentiments, especially southern regional sentiments, leads many to impulsively reject Indian Tamil support for Sri Lankan Tamil grievances. This is why they believe supporting the Sri Lankan Tamils is the same as supporting the LTTE.

A pro-LTTE activist carrying a placard expressing solidarity with Kashmiri separatists

Instead of making an effort to understand Tamil Nadu the commentators allow their views to be reinforced by a preachy and rather exclusive leadership of the Right in Tamil Nadu. This very group has prevented BJP from transcending its extremely narrow social base by speaking an idiom very few Tamils identify with.

Yasin Malik’s association with a fringe Tamil group is not a vindication of an unsympathetic policy towards Sri Lankan Tamils. It is a reminder that even certified anti-nationals see the merits of identifying themselves with the regional sentiments and causes.

The Right must ask itself if it wants to speak to Tamils in their own political language. If it made an effort to look beyond its preconceived notions it would find enough space to practice and influence Tamil politics.

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Amar Govindarajan is a management professional based out of somewhere in South India. He spends his spare time in bird-watching, dog keeping and reading Popular science. He is also a member of the CRI Editorial team.

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