The Union government run by the BJP has found itself once again on the receiving end of a state vs Centre clash. The tableau from the state of Tamil Nadu which featured renowned freedom fighters Veera Mangai Velu Nachiar, Thiru. V.O. Chidambaram, Great Poet Bharathi, Marudhu Brothers from the state was rejected. Chief Minister MK Stalin immediately shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that he was “deeply disappointed to know that the state of Tamil Nadu has been deprived of the opportunity to participate.” He further requested the Prime Minister to ensure that the tableau of the state of Tamil Nadu be allowed to be displayed in the Republic Day parade, held on 26 January 2022.
The BJP government understood the enormity of its folly and attempted damage control. A day later, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh wrote back to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister giving vague explanations, quoting they were allowed in the past few years and assured the 2022 selection process was transparent. What was more shocking than this letter and the silence of the Prime Minister were the news articles which portrayed the cavalier manner of rejection of the tableau from the state of Tamil Nadu. More than the rejection, the manner in which it was rejected is deeply disturbing.
We Indians take pride in the fact that we are a multidimensional culture, and we derive our strength from our pluralistic society. But the way in which the tableau from Tamil Nadu was rejected is a clear mockery of these cherished principles of ‘Unity in Diversity.’ One of the experts wanted to know “if VOC was a businessman.” This version has come in a leading national daily and no one has denied it. What’s farcical is that our beloved Prime Minister on September 5, 2021, on the 150th birth anniversary of Thiru. V.O.C, hailed his heroic achievements through a tweet. Very recently on 3rd January, the Prime Minster hailed Veera Mangai Velu Nachiyar on her birth anniversary and called her a queen personifying women empowerment.
If exemplary commendations from the Prime Minister won’t move the expert panel, what else will? Veera Mangai Velu Nachiyar was the first women freedom fighter of our country, Thiru. VO Chidambaram, who sold his property and ran a shipping company to dent the British commercial interests, was later sent to prison to suffer a great deal of torture. Great Poet Bharathy, a pioneering literary figure, and the Marudhu brothers, who fought a valiant battle against the British, are the icons that found a place in the tableau. If these personalities are not allowed to be showcased in the Republic Day parade, the question should be, who else or what else could have been more appropriate that would resonate with the birth of our republic.
The rejection of TN’s Tableau reeks of authoritarianism and the innate desire of the BJP government to suppress everything that does not resonate with their ideology of Hindutva and Hindi majoritarianism.
In a stinging rebuke to the high handedness of the BJP government in rejecting the tableau, Stalin declared that the same tableau would be showcased in the state’s Republic Day parade and will be exhibited across the state. In his speech on January 25, commemorating the martyrs of the language war, he took strong exception to the statement of the expert who quipped “whether VOC was a businessman.” The Chief Minister expressed anguish that experts who lack understanding of how a shipping company was formed to attack the British commercially have deeply undervalued the torchbearers of patriotism from Tamil Nadu.
The BJP government is treading on a disastrous path where it wants to convert all the states of our country to the status of a Glorified Municipal Corporation. When the state’s biggest icons are sought to be paraded at the country’s biggest event, how audacious is it for a bunch of experts to reject it on flimsy grounds? Ultimately, it is an insult on the people of Tamil Nadu who for time immemorial revered these heroes.
Views expressed are the author's own.
A Saravanan is a spokesperson for the DMK.