Monday, 26 October 2015

Who Is A Tamilar? Deciding The Tamil Identity



Tamil Nationalism or Tamilism as I prefer to call it has now re-emerged. It was pushed aside in the past by Dravidian Nationalism. I am in a way glad that it has re-emerged. 

I only hope that the present torch bearers of Tamilism will lead the people in the right direction and stay away from any form of extremism.

There are some articles in my blog which touches on Tamilism.

Tamilakam - Geographical boundaries of the present day Tamil world
The 5 Landscapes of Tamilakam -  The different types of landscapes that exist in Tamilakam
A Tribute to Taraki - Militarism of Tamil people and their military castes
Dravidian Politics & Surnames - A simple explanation on how the eradication of surnames by Dravidian front affected the Tamil society

The basic thing about Tamilism is the Tamil identity itself. 

What makes a person Tamilar? 

Today many people are able to converse in Tamil. They have names which sound similar. They reside in Tamilakam. Some are born in Tamilakam. Yet, we cannot classify all of them as Tamilar. 

Vishal Krishna Reddy

During the recent Nadigar Sangam election in Tamil Nadu, actor Vishal's ethnicity became an issue. This is because Vishal is of Telugu origin. He is not considered a Tamilar although he would have lived his entire life in Tamil Nadu.

Professor George L.Hart of University of California (Berkeley) has translated several Tamil epics into English. He is also one of the important people who helped to push India to classify Tamil as a classical language. This man definitely knows the language better than most of us yet he will also not be considered a Tamilar.

This shows that Tamil language proficiency or living in any part of Tamilakam will not be considered as criteria to consider someone a Tamilar. You can be a permanent resident of Tamil Nadu but that does not make you a Tamilar.

Professor George L.Hart

The only way is to check on the caste background of the person. If a person was born in a caste native to any parts within the geographical boundaries of Tamilakam, then that person will be considered as a Tamilar.

It is this one thing which determines who is a Tamilar and who is not even if the person resides outside Tamilakam including those in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

Vishal is not a Tamilar because he is Vishal Reddy. Reddy (or Reddiar) is Telugu caste which originated from outside Tamilakam. There are Reddies in Tamil Nadu who have been living in the state for almost 500 years. 

Castes shows if one is a native of the land. Reddies, Naickers, Sakkiliyars and Mutrachas are some of the castes which came from outside Tamilakam and settled down here. They are not native castes. Hence, are not considered as Tamilar. This then leads to another question. 

How long must a caste have settled down in Tamilakam in order to be considered as natives?

There are some like Kallars who arrived in Tamilakam 70,000 years ago. Others arrived later. Could be 5000 years or even 500 years.

So where do we draw the line?

A friend told me that all those who settle down in Tamil Nadu before the partition of Madras State are considered as natives. Some feel that those who settled down here during or before Western colonisation are natives. Others feel that those who arrived from outside the boundaries of Tamilakam after the end of the Sangam Ages cannot be considered as natives.

Perhaps it will be important to first decide who can be considered as native Tamilar. The government of Tamil Nadu and their counterparts in Sri Lanka, Puducherry and Karaikal can work together to set the standard.