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December 24, 2011

Malayalis an hour away !!!

The first of November is a day of joy to the people of Kerala. It was on 1-11-1956 that their long-cherished dream of a Malayalam State, a United Kerala became political reality. But there was a price to
be paid for it, a price so heavy that it cannot be forgotten. Kerala lost to Tamil Nadu what was once South Travancore and is now called appropriately Kanyakumari District. Such things happen don’t they? A linguistic reorganisation of states cannot always be a clean and painless cut. Moreover South Travancore is not ‘lost’, it is a part of India as much as Kerala or Tamil Nadu is and Tamil Nadu has always had, down the centuries, a natural, intrinsic cultural presence in South Travancore. These are comforting musings, but the fact remains that there is a sizable number of Malayalis there about four
lakhs and they are a linguistic minority. A linguistic minority doesn’t have the political clout of a religious minority. Moreover the Malayalis in K.K district (Kanyakumari District) appear a
defected and unorganised lot, content to complain and without the energy and willpower to improve their lot. Soon after the reorganisation of States, many Malayali families from K.K District
moved to Kerala, specially the capital of Kerala. It was a continuing process, a trickle of it still perceptible. This was not a difficult change of location because many families in Southern Kerala,
specially Thiruvananthapuram District had their roots down South in KK district. Within a warm and accommodating context the new comers could reorganise their lives. But the majority left in the south had to adjust to a new social and political environment. Somebody
may ask “they were always there weren’t they? What is so new about the environment?” There was no loss of neighbourly cordiality, Tamils and Malayalis having been there together for ages.
But still the Malayalis feel that they are at a disadvantage, and they have some sound reasons for this uncomfortable feeling. One is that
Malayalam is becoming less and less necessary to the future of their children. It is not English that is invading and conquering, but Tamil. A language can take root and have a healthy growth only if it is taught at school. Malayali parents want their children to learn their mother tongue, but it is increasingly difficult to have teachers. It is reported that two Teacher Training Institutes which catered to Malayalam teaching have been closed down. The Government may have had reasons for doing so, but the result is schools don’t get trained Malayalam Teachers. In some schools where there was a vacancy for a Malayalam teacher’s post no teacher was appointed. The children after waiting for a long time shift to Tamil. Easy it is then to say that there is no demand and abolish the post. Clever
moves at a local officer’s level are enough to change a minority friendly situation to one far from friendly. When Malayali children have no choice and adopt Tamil at school, the school-records would inscribe the family as ‘Tamil’. As it is compulsory in Tamil Nadu that
applicants to government posts should pass a test in Tamil Language, a Malayalie there would study Tamil as a necessary qualification. But there is no reason why they should be allowed to feel deprived
of a chance to learn their own language. In Kerala there are Tamil schools and Kannada schools. It is time that the Government of Kerala study the issue of what is happening to Malayalam in KK
district, and if necessary, take up this issue with the Government of India and Tamil Nadu. There used to be a large number of
Malayalam libraries in KK district. Many of them are now closed down, or just tmping along with a few readers and with scanty or no grants. Malayalis haverich Tamil Nadu government cannot afford a generous grant to these temples. It is even more incomprehensible why the Malayalis cannot be more committed to the upkeep of these
temples and the welfare of the priests and other staff. Many of
the temples, beautiful in themselves, look forlorn and desolate,
obviously unwanted except by a few or very few devotees
dropping in now and then. This is a problem that the Hindu
communities both Tamil and Malayali have to take up seriously
and solve very soon. Because it cuts at their self-respect.
Is it a mistaken impression that the Malayalis in old South
Travancore now look a hapless lot? Tamil Nadu is a prosperous
State and there is no reason why one section of the population
nobody to blame but themselves for this situation. If a
community cannot value its own treasures why blame others?
Lack of interest leading to abdication of one’s own rights is a
rot from within, inviting forces of destruction from without.
Malayalis still remember with horror and pain how a big library
at Nagercoil with rare books, and old records was burnt to
ashes many years ago at the time of linguistic partition.
Such tampering with history still goes on in a mild way, but
decisive however mild it seems to be. The conch mark and
letters ‘R.V’ blazoned on old official buildings in the days of
the Maharajas of Travancore keep disappearing. They were
not conquerors, South Travancore was home to them. K.K.
district was the most important part of old Venad which
stretched from KANYAKUMARI to Kollam or a little beyond.
Many parts of South India have changed hands from Pandyas
to Cheras, or Cholas or the other way round. Venad or Travancore
was a historical reality for a long time. The neglect of forts,
palaces, and other old structures which were part of Travancore
history is not a deprecation of a foreigner’s past but of one’s
own past. Moreover the past is India’s as a whole, historical
relics a perennial source of interest to students of history the
world over. Art, architecture, engineering, carpentry, parchmentsthere
is nothing that is not relevant to history.
Kerala arts like Kathakali used to be performed in temples
in KK District. The temples themselves except three or four
which draw big crowds of pilgrims are in a state of neglect.
The Travancore Devaswam Board used to take good care of
the temples. The priests are Malayali Brahmins and their rites
belong to the Tantric tradition. It is incomprehensible why the
rich Tamil Nadu government cannot afford a generous grant
to these temples. It is even more incomprehensible why the
Malayalis cannot be more committed to the upkeep of these
temples and the welfare of the priests and other staff. Many of
the temples, beautiful in themselves, look forlorn and desolate,
obviously unwanted except by a few or very few devotees
dropping in now and then. This is a problem that the Hindu
communities both Tamil and Malayali have to take up seriously
and solve very soon. Because it cuts at their self-respect.
Is it a mistaken impression that the Malayalis in old South
Travancore now look a hapless lot? Tamil Nadu is a prosperous
State and there is no reason why one section of the population
should look as though they are unwelcome immigrants. They
have to be an active and assertive community, cordial and
cooperative, but very sure of themselves and their rights. Very
easy to say all this but how to work out such hopes and
dreams? A large organisation with many activities and no infighting
could pave the way for a regeneration of the spirit.
And most probably the govt. of Kerala could help. The
govt. of Tamil Nadu could be persuaded to open or reopen
the channels for Malayalam learning at school level. And
perhaps the proposed Malayalam University or a big subcentre
of it could be established somewhere near the border
and serve as the source of a large number of activities useful
to Malayalis in KK district also. Maybe a popular Malayalam
daily could start a Kanyakumari edition. Without the political
turmoil of Kerala, but sharing some of the cultural life of Kerala,
the Malayalis in Kanyakumari could be a happier lot. But their
fate rests with them. They have to wake up and organize
.


(courtesy: www.prd.kerala.gov.in & The writer is Prof. B HRDAYAKUMARI Rtd. Principal, College for Women,
Thiruvananthapuram.)

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