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Contradictory trends: crisis and expansion in television May 23, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Nalin Mehta

In early 2008, India’s Zee News broadcast a ‘special investigation’. With a loud, red banner labelling the inquiry an ‘exclusive’, the program made two claims: first, it professed to have found definitive proof that Ravana, the mythical villain of the Ramayana, had maintained an air force. And second, the program revealed that it had found a secret cave in Sri Lanka containing Ravana’s mummified body.

By way of proof, the channel offered an excited-looking reporter standing on a hill holding some local black soil. As he explained, the soil was black because the blast from Ravana’s aircraft had singed it. For the second claim, the channel specified that the mythical demon king’s mummy was exactly 17 feet long and it lay entombed in a mountain cave. Only, the intrepid reporter could not reach the supposed crypt because there were demons guarding their lord’s mummy.


Largest-ever naval exercise signals new era in Indo-Lanka co-operation October 16, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published by Future Directions International on 28 September 2011.


In a bid to strengthen naval and maritime interoperability and co-operation, India and Sri Lanka have held their first joint-naval exercise since 2005, the largest-ever naval exercise between the two countries. Codenamed SLINEX II, the six-day exercise was held from 18-23 September off Sri Lanka’s eastern coastline and involved 17 warships, including helicopters and maritime aircraft.


The Indian Navy’s involvement comprised one Destroyer (INS Ravijay), one Frigate (INS Shivlik), one missile corvette (INS Khanjar), one Landing Ship Tank (INS Gharial), two Fast Attack Craft (Cheriyam and Koradivh) and one maritime patrol aircraft. The Sri Lankan contribution to the exercise was two Offshore Patrol Vessels (SLNS Sagara and SLNS Samudura), a Fast Missile Vessel (SLNS Nandimihra), two Fast Gun Boats (SLNS Prathapa and Ranajaya) and six Fast Attack Craft.

As reported in the Indian daily, The Hindu, Rear Admiral Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, Indian Navy, who commanded the Indian ships, affirmed India’s primary interest in the exercise: ‘The Sri Lankan Navy has gained a lot of experience in asymmetric warfare, basically handling attacks by small boats. We learnt from them how they handle these attacks.’

The manoeuvres were held against a backdrop of criticism from fringe ultra-nationalist Tamil parties in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They accused the Sri Lankan Navy of a string of attacks against Tamil Nadu fishermen – allegations Sri Lanka has strongly denied. ‘India, which has been renovating the Kankesanturai port in Sri Lanka at a huge cost, is about to extend training and other assistance to the Sri Lankan Navy,’ said Dr Ramadoss, leader of the Tamil ultranationalist Pattali Makkal Katchi party. He added, ‘When the whole of Tamil Nadu is demanding that India have no relations whatsoever with Sri Lanka, it is improper for the Indian Navy to engage itself in joint naval exercises with the same country.’ (more…)

K Kamaraj and the Midday Meal Scheme July 25, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Sundaram, Manu , comments closed

Manu Sundaram

Kumarasami Kamaraj (1903 – 1975) was a political leader, freedom fighter and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Kamaraj is widely remembered in his home state of Tamil Nadu for the reform policies introduced during his tenure as Chief Minister (from 1954 to 1963) which  revolutionised the education system. In honour of his contribution, the Government of Tamil Nadu has declared that the birthday of Kamaraj (15 July) be celebrated as ‘Education Development Day’.

Kamaraj, admired for his simplicity and integrity, had a long and illustrious political career as Member of Legislative Assembly from 1954 to 1967 and as Member of Parliament initially from 1952 to 1954 and then from 1969 to 1975. He also served as President of Tamil Nadu Congress from 1940 to 1954 and as President of All India Congress from 1963 to 1971.

The story of Kamaraj’s political ascendancy mirrors the socio-political changes in Tamil Nadu. The rise of Kamaraj – a member of the backward Nadar caste – to the highest echelons of the Tamil Nadu politics took place alongside the growth of the Dravidian movement against caste-based oppression and the creation of opportunities for people from downtrodden classes.

As President of the Tamil Nadu Congress, Kamaraj oversaw the election of four Chief Ministers namely T Prakasam, Omandur Ramawamy Reddiar, Kumaraswamy Raja and Rajaji. During the tenure of Rajaji, the Government closed down nearly 6,000 schools citing financial constraints. Furthermore, Rajaji introduced a hereditary-based vocational education scheme which required students to learn the traditional caste occupation of their families. This scheme immediately met with strong opposition from all political quarters and Rajaji was forced to tender his resignation. Following this, Kamaraj was chosen to be the Chief Minister by the Congress Party. (more…)

India: Anna and the Dravidian Movement February 15, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Sundaram, Manu , comments closed

Manu Sundaram

Let Tamil be your dream of victory, let Tamil culture be your armour,

Let wisdom be your weapon. Let virtue be your guide and companion.

C.N. Annadurai (Former Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu)

C.N. Annadurai (or Anna for short), regarded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as one of the country’s finest Parliamentarians, was a stalwart of the Dravidian Movement. To his supporters and followers he was known as “Arignar Anna” (Arignar in Tamil means genius) for his outstanding intellect and razor- sharp wit. He was also the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu when he led his party to victory in the state assembly alections in 1967. Arignar Anna’s tenure as Chief Minister was all too brief: he died, while still in office, in 1969.  But during this stint, he managed to elevate and embolden the Dravidian Movement like no other leader.

The Dravidian Movement first started as a social reformist struggle against caste-based discriminatory practices in India during the 1920s. After Independence, the Union Government of India started phasing out English and instituting Hindi has the official language. Protesting against this, the leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) took to the streets to register their opposition. Students and activists turned up in great numbers in response to the clarion calls of Arignar Anna and other Dravidian leaders. Renowned for his oratorical eloquence and leadership abilities, Arignar Anna held numerous meetings and demonstrations to fight against the imposition of Hindi on the Tamil speaking population in the South. During one such meeting, Arignar Anna was told of the argument that Hindi should be made the official language due to its “numerical superiority” as it was spoken by the majority of Indians. To this, Arignar Anna responded: “If we had to accept the principle of numerical superiority while selecting our national bird, the choice would have fallen not on the peacock but on the common crow. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous?” (more…)