History beckons



That the unveiling of the celebrated saint-poet Tiruvalluvar’s statue in Bangalore — after a prolonged wait of more than 18 years — passed off peacefully amidst much jubilation, is a tribute to the sagacity displayed by the BJP government, led by chief minister B S Yeddyurappa. In fact, the credit for amicably resolving the ‘problem’ goes to both Yeddyurappa and his Tamil Nadu counterpart, M Karunanidhi. As a reciprocal gesture of goodwill, Tamil Nadu will be unveiling the statue of iconic Kannada poet Sarvajna in Chennai on Aug 13. As both the chief ministers pointed out in their statesman-like speeches at the Tiruvalluvar inauguration ceremony, the stature of the two great poets transcend all barriers of caste, religious and language and their contributions belong to all Indians.

But of late it was petty politics, linguistic chauvinism and political jingoism that have characterised the relations between the two neighbouring states, who share much in common, apart from physical boundaries. Tamil and Kannada, which trace the same Dravidian lineage, have a rich heritage of literature, culture and traditions and the two peoples have lived together peacefully for centuries. In fact, some of Kannada’s greatest writers like Jnanapeeth awardee Masti Venkatesha Iyenger and Pu Ti Narasimhachar had Tamil as their mother tongue, but their devotion and contribution to Kannada literature were of the highest order.

The transmigration of Tamils and Kannadigas into each other’s territories is perhaps one of the largest and the bonhomie between the two communities has existed for a long time. The dispute over the sharing of Cauvery waters has unfortunately been a great thorn in their relations and thanks to politicisation of the dispute — more so in Tamil Nadu because of competitive politics between two Dravidian parties — a sense of mistrust and rivalry has developed, which exploded in senseless riots in Bangalore and elsewhere in mid-1990s.

Yeddyurappa and Karunanidhi have now applied a much needed balm on the relations between the two states and they need to carry forward the mutual understanding to solve the other vexed problems. Karunanidhi could make a beginning by persuading a Tamil litigant who has approached the Madras high court to withdraw his case against the granting of classical status to Kannada. The two chief ministers could also resume their dialogue on the sharing of Cauvery waters, besides irrigation and power projects in the basin, which would benefit both the states. History beckons both Karunanidhi and Yeddyurappa and they should seize the opportunity.

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