Will ‘Citizen K’ click in Tamil politics?

Kamal Hassan

Kamal’s advantage is his freshness of ideas and concepts for new generation of voters. He regrets that the whistle-blowers in the media have been silenced. He wants to “strengthen the voice of truth” and looks at the Ashoka Chakra on the national flag as “the virtuous cycle of the nation”.

Will Tamil Nadu’s ace cine star Kamal Hassan, who has launched himself in politics under the brand of ‘Citizen K’, prove to be a politician with a difference? It is too early to predict the direction Tamil Nadu politics would take in the months ahead. Kamal has, of course, all the elements of charm and charisma for success. Right now, there a vacuum in the state’s turbulent politics after the demise of ever popular Jayalalitha. Even another popular cine star Rajnikanth is toying with the idea of taking a plunge in public life. This will give an interesting turn to the state’s traditional two-party syndrome of Karunanidhi’s DMK and MGR-Jayalalitha’s AIDMK.

The two parties have their own well-entrenched grassroots network. Tamil Nadu’s politics has actually revolved around these two outfits for decades. How the entry of new popular stars changes or upsets the existing power equations is difficult to say at this stage. We know politics is an art of the possible as well as the impossible. It can be safely said today’s new generation of young voters desperately look for a change better in all facets of political culture and idioms. The youth concept of New Politics is not based on rhetoric. It seeks firm commitments to perform and deliver on promises made to people. In any case, Tamil Nadu politics seems all set for change, hopefully for the better!

Kamal Hassan’s starts his public journey with a clean slate, sans any scam or scandal. This is a big Plus Point in today’s murky politics. Tamil  politics has quite a messy track record in this regard, whether it is the DMK or the AIDMK. Still, for a new comer in Tamil Nadu’s Political Theatre, it will not be easy to register a breakthrough in the state’s complex political setting. One never knows. Theoretically, even a Kejriwal could happen. But Chinai is not Kejriwal’s Delhi. The people in Tamil Nadu are made of a sterner stuff. So, it is going to be tough tasks ahead, both for Kamal and Rajnikanth.

At 63, Kamal Hassan gives the impression of evolving himself as a thinking person with a mind of his own. He wishes to build his political strength from the grassroots. He will formally launch his party after understanding the people’s problems and expectations.
A versatile actor, Kamal belongs to a traditional Hindu family. He, however, calls himself “a rationalist”. Hinduism and rationalism, I believe, are two faces of the same coin. Certain aberrations like blind faith in rituals, touch-me-not ism continue to be part of Hindu orthodoxy. But these factors do not dilute the Vedic purity of thought and sense of values.
Kamal’s advantage is his freshness of ideas and concepts for new generation of voters. He regrets that the whistle-blowers in the media have been silenced. He wants to “strengthen the voice of truth” and looks at the Ashoka Chakra on the national flag as “the virtuous cycle of the nation”.

He states, “if you do one good deed, it sows the seeds for more good deeds forming a virtuous circle”, and adds that “there is virtue in people’s hearts but it has not translated into action”. He feels that “this cycle has been poisoned and turned into a vicious circle. Our dream is to make it virtuous again”. This in itself will be quite a task. However, this puts Kamal in a different class of the political divide. The moot point is: will he be able to stick to high moral grounds in public life in today’s dirty politics?

Be that as it may. What has angered the custodians of Hindutva forces is his indiscreet remark on ‘Hindu terrorism’. In his weekly column in the Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan, Hassan wrote: “In the past, Hindu right-wing groups would not indulge in violence, but hold a dialogue with opposite parties on their arguments. But now they indulge in violence” In this context, he said that “one cannot say there is no Hindu terror anymore”.
Kamal’s use of the words “Hindu terror” may not be intentional but it has evoked sharp reaction from large sections of Hindu society. Perhaps, Kamal Hassan soon realized his lapse and immediately clarified that his real intention was to focus on violence that has entered Hinduism through the action of some of its ‘defenders’.

It is no secret that the so-called defenders of the Hindu faith have indulged in reckless lynching in the name of cow vigilantism. The victims in such obnoxious acts are Muslims, Dalits and other low caste groups. These senseless acts of violence in UP, Bihar, Assam or Gujarat are not Hinduism. Irrational behavior on the part of these fringe elements pollutes the public discourse and threatens rational  concepts and cultural openness, freedom of expression and the people’s sacred rights. Regrettably, those Indians who have taken a hardline position on Hinduism hardly understand its sublime nature. Bollywood star Deepika Padukone is right in saying that “we have regressed as a nation”.

Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion. It derives its strength from its liberal roots of tolerance and understanding of other faiths. It is flexible in approach as well as in practice. It acknowledges an individual’s right to differ, provided dissent is logically presented.
Here, I wish to recall certain observations by Nani Palkhivala, the Indian I admire most. He talked about innate paradoxes in the Indian situation in his booklet “India’s Priceless Heritage” published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 1980. The late eminent jurist and thinker observed:

“It has been my long-standing conviction that India (today) is like a donkey carrying a sack of gold – the donkey does not know what it is carrying but is content to go along with the load on its back. The load of gold is a fantastic treasure – in arts, literature, culture and sciences like ayurvedic medicine – which we have inherited from the days of the splendour that was India. Adi Sankaracharya called it accumulated treasure of spiritual truths discovered by the Rishis”.

I do not blame the “donkey” (the Indian nation). It is its job to carry the burden of this “treasure”. What is regrettable is that ignorance as well as indifference of the masters of this “donkey”. They hardly understand what to make of the “treasure” and how to utilize it for the enrichment and greater good of society as we see “fringe elements” indulging in violent acts like flogging of Dalits and Muslims in the name of cow vigilantism or wordy duel of secularism and Hindutva.

It is a pity that India today has an overdose of small-minded politicians who overlook the fact that the Hindu is basically secular by tradition. Distortions in the faith are an afterthought by a “lunatic fringe” at the other end of the fence!

Hinduism is a way of life, a way of thinking and conduct leading to the path of higher values which make life sublime and all-embracing. I do not view Hinduism through peepholes of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal or pre or post Modi BJP. Nor do I look at it through politicized angularities of the likes of Digvijay Singh or so-called “secularists” who put on a garb of logic and rationalism but conduct themselves like “brown sahebs” with old colonial mindset of divide and rule.

Will Kamal Hassan’s “rationalism” woven around the ethical tapestry of life click in muddy waters of Tamil politics? Let’s keep our fingers crossed and wish him good luck!

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