[Blogger's Note: This is the last in a series of 3 articles]
"Who is this Ram? Is he a Civil Engineer ? Which Engineering College did he graduate from ?" When I first saw Karunanidhi's translated tirade as subtitles on NDTV it took me a couple of minutes to realise that the kalaignar was actually taking potshots at the adarshapurush (Perfect Man) of the Ramayana, Lord Rama (a.k.a Shri Ram, Ramar, Ramudu ...). The debate was on the Archeological Survey of India's petition to the Supreme Court. The petition had urged the Court to not treat the lime shoals between India and Srilanka (Adam's Bridge/ Ram Setu) as evidence of a bridge that was built by Lord Rama and his Vaanar Sena (Monkey army) to cross over to Lanka and fight Raavana.
It wasn't surprising to hear this from the DMK. The DMK has always felt that the Ramayana was an allegory to the victory of the Aryan Race over the Dravidians and the eventual sanskritisation of then India. While the rest of India looks at Lord Rama as the ideal man (husband, brother, son and father) who went to war against a tyrant in Lanka, the DMK views Rama as a son who was too meek to stand up to what was right, as a brother who let a pair of slippers rule from Ayodhya, a husband who doubted his wife's integrity and a dad who fought his own children out of arrogance. To the contarary, Ravana is treated as a tragic hero, a learned and spiritual man with a keen ear for music, a man who respected women (though he abducted somebody else's wife) as he never forced himself on Sita during her days in Lanka. Things were more militant with DMK in the days yore - Periyar, the founder of the Dravidian movement would make it a point to garland Rama statues with slippers every Ram Navami.
Well, the Dravidian point of view is not what I'm trying to convey through this article. What struck me was how Karunanidhi, an elected head of the state said what he said. As a Freedom of speech proponent I don't find anything wrong with someone expressing their beliefs. As an elected head of state in a pluralistic society, he may well have crossed the line and should have acted with more restraint. It would be interesting to see the reaction if he said something about Jesus Christ (Who is this Jesus ? Is he a Marine Biologist ? How did he know exactly where and when to cast the net to catch a bounty?) or the Prophet Mohammed [PBUH] (Who is this Prophet [PBUH] ? Is he a Sound Engineer ? Did he have any patents on quality hearing aid techniques? How else could he have heard the message of the Lord broadcast from so many millions of miles away without any glitches ...[except for those Satanic Verses]?). Personally, I think the Central Government in a bid to portray itself as the protector of the minorities would have asked him to step down as the Chief Minister of Tamizh Naad.
Well, the double standards of the current central government is not what I'm trying to hint at through this article. When Columbia Uni invited Ahmadinejad as a guest, he went onto his pet topic - questioning the occurrence of the holocaust. It’s difficult to refute something that occurred so systematically, but if a person has a particular belief then we must either let it be or prove him wrong. What we should not be doing is to try convicting him for an alleged crime. I still do not understand why denying the holocaust should be treated as a crime or even be treated as Anti-Semitism. In those lines Mr Karunanidhi must be convicted as well and so should Mr Rushide. In Columbia, Mr Ahmadinejad was more conciliatory - he felt there should be an open debate on the holocaust. Maybe a handful of undergard researchers is all it takes to open Mr Evil's eyes.
It is impossible to draw the line for freedom of speech, just as one man's Freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. In such a case not having a line is the only line that must exist. Say what you feel like and pay the price for it - burnt State buses and a daughter's house damaged as in the case of the Kalaignar or a fatwa in the case of Mr Rushdie that has kept him in constant fear and hiding or a probable conviction for the Iranian President in some land when his diplomatic immunity ceases.