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Nation Impossible

Given the impossibility of the nation-form as an enabling political arrangement of our times - after all, we have experimented with it for over two centuries - the work of imagination and the work of politics need to seek newer, pluralistic and enabling forms of politics beyond the nation-form. The thought of Tagore and Periyar offers us at least two premises to re-imagine politics beyond the nation-form. First, politics has to be a perennial contestation of different forms of power by acknowledging and addressing difference as the fundamental reality of the social. Second, a politics beyond the nation has to be based on a de-territorialised imagination that surpasses the territorial parochialism of the nation-form and embraces the world as a terrain of possibilities, alliances, and constraints.


a national sameness or homogeneity – a

Nation Impossible

question that unwittingly admits that na-

M S S Pandian

Given the impossibility of the nation-form as an enabling political arrangement of our times

– after all, we have experimented with it for over two centuries – the work of imagination and the work of politics need to seek newer, pluralistic and enabling forms of politics beyond the nation-form. The thought of Tagore and Periyar offers us at least two premises to re-imagine politics beyond the nation-form. First, politics has to be a perennial contestation of different forms of power by acknowledging and addressing difference as the fundamental reality of the social. Second, a politics beyond the nation has to be based on a de-territorialised imagination that surpasses the territorial parochialism of the nation-form and embraces the world as a terrain of possibilities, alliances, and constraints.

This text is based on the keynote address delivered at the International Tamil Studies conference held at the University of Toronto in May 2007.

M S S Pandian ( is with the Sarai programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.

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To forget – and I would venture say – to get one’s history wrong, are essential factors in the making of a nation; and thus the advance of historical study is a danger to nationality

–Ernest Renan.

odular or historically specific,1 nations share a common quality, i e, they are an arbitrary political form. More than anything else, the very story of national borders vouches for this arbitrariness. There are always lines of control and disputed stretches. When there are no lines of control or disputed stretches, they turn out to be unmanageably porous (Abraham and Schendel 2005).

1 Introduction

National borders change through annexations, break-ups and unifications. Yet, nations try all the time to mask their arbitrariness and recover them as authentic. The incommensurability between arbitrariness and authenticity renders the nation-form an utopia. Pursuing this utopia can only be an ever-elusive, never-realisable project of violence. Before I expand on this idea, let me offer two stories as illustrations of nation-work – one Indian and the other Sri Lankan. These stories summarise the source of the perpetual anxiety and the consequent violence of the nation-form.

Let me begin with the Indian story. It is a story of a newly independent nation grappling with the anxiety about its nationhood and the possible threats to it. In 1960, i e, just 13 years after India became independent from British colonial rule, a conference of state education ministers recommended formation of a committee on national integration. The mandate of the committee, which was named “the Committee on Emotional Integration”, was to “study the role of education in strengthening and promoting the processes of emotional integration in national life…” (MoE 1962). The mandate is thus a confession that Indian nation was not yet and it had to be invented.

More precisely, the committee’s task was to tackle the question of how to manufacture

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tions are not pre-given though they are claimed to be so. Outlining the condition of possibility for a nation to be brought into being, the committee declared,

Nationhood has a strong psychological basis and depends on the people concerned having had similar experiences and, what is no less important, interpreting them in the same way. If political and other events convey different meaning to different groups, they will continue to be a source of dissention and disintegration...(ibid: 2).

This cardinal principle of nation insists on similar experiences and vetoes out different interpretations of such experiences. Its message is thus simple: “Think alike”. In other words, difference seemingly has no place in the national order of things. The committee’s recommendation of how the Indian national anthem had to be sung is a telling case in point. Claiming that “singing the Anthem is something which admits of no variation in method”, it suggested, “To ensure complete uniformity of rendering… recorded music by the All India Radio should be invariably used as a guide both to instrumental and vocal rendering of the Anthem” (ibid: 73). In other words, uniformity is here claimed to be the source of national unity.

Given such emphasis on homogeneity and sameness as the source and essence of the nation, the committee had to over and over again address the question of difference as the pro blem to be combated in nation-making. Hence, it speaks repeatedly of identities based on region (regionalism), caste (casteism) and religion (communalism), among others, as threats to the young Indian nation. Of these different identities, let me pick up one, i e, the identity of the region vis-à-vis the nation.

Views of a Section of Tamils

The time when the committee was deliberating on the emotional integration of India, a section of the Tamil-speaking south spoke a different language of politics. It refused to experience India the way the mainstream Indian nationalists wanted it to and sought its political future in its own nation, the so-called Dravida Nadu. In downplaying and denying claims to such separate identity of south India,


the Committee on Emotional Integration produced a past which foregrounds certain networks of circulation which putatively bound together the northern and the southern regions of India:

One may recall the beautiful legend of Agastya, still the patron saint of the south, who crossed the Vindhyas from the north and never returned. Who does not know that though the Upanishads were uttered first in the forest asrams of the north, Vedic philosophy owes so much to the creative and critical exposition of it by Shankaracharya from Kerala? Ayodhya, Madura and Vrindavan in the north are places sacred to the memory of Rama and Krishna, but Rama’s journey across the south to Ceylon is deeply enshrined in Hindu memory, and pilgrim places like Kanchi and Rameswaram have equal claim to reverence (ibid: 8).

Even if this mix of myth and history (and myth as history) is believed to be true, they, unfortunately for the committee and the Indian nation, were neither experienced nor interpreted in the same way. Let me take the case of Rama’s southward journey. Southern dissenters had an entirely different position on it. As Selig Harrison reminds us,

The Dravidian argument is based on the very substance of Hindu mythology, and The Ramayana, so proudly hailed as a force for synthesis, became the basic text cited to establish Aryan iniquity. In Dravidian propaganda the southward march of Rama to the lair of the evil King Ravana, abductor of Sita, is nothing less than the allegorical story of the triumphal Aryan progress over the original Dravidian inhabitants of India. To many a non-Brahman Tamil, the legions of monkeys Rama encounters in the southern jungles to be none other than the Dravidians. Thus the epic is a racial insult before half told (Harrison 1960).

The so-called bonhomie between the south and the north that the committee tries to affirm, is thus based on silencing alternative interpretations of the past. Silencing can salvage the nation, at least for the moment. Yet, it is as much a source of anxiety since the repressed can always return.

Exclusivist Notions

There is more to the committee’s account of the north-south unity. Despite claims to unity, the story not only produces a hierarchy among regions but is also exclusivist. All the templates of unity among the regions – Agastya, Upanishads and Rama

– come from the north: and the south’s role is primarily to accept and adopt them. What looks like circulation and exchange at the first look is in fact a one-way flow for most part. Thus, what is offered as a story of unity is premised on a hierarchy among regions. Again, the universalising claim of this account found in its invocation “who does not know”, quickly reveals itself as nothing more than what is called the “Hindu memory”. If the regions are multi-religious (as they were and are), then the non-Hindus have hardly any place in this account of unity. They would surely be carrying other memories – memories that are treated as unworthy to be acknowledged. In other words, this so-called claim to unity excludes. Yet, this is the story of regional unity the Committee on Emotional Integration could at best produce. Nation-work seems never to work.

Such claims to unity among the regions, however, did not square up with the contemporary realities. One of the dilemmas faced by the committee was how to address the linguistic differences across different regions of India. It admits, “The question still remains as to which Indian language, both for the sake of national pride and national sentiment, should be taught in all the schools of the Indian Union as a common means of communi cation and as a common meeting ground for the sharing of ideas, a language that is of the land” (MoE op cit: 49). The “language that is of the land” is the keyword here and it asserts the nation’s putative singularity and affirms its desire for homogeneity. The committee claimed,

Hindi is spoken by large sections of our people and a number of other languages spoken in India are closely allied to Hindi, as Hindi is allied to them; and therefore, adoption of Hindi as the common language of India would greatly facilitate the growth of a common medium of communication binding the whole country together (ibid: 49-50).

Though the committee could swiftly decide on the question of which language should be the national language by the simple rule of majority, the nation had more work to do. It admitted, “the crux of the problem is to make the learning of Hindi in non-Hindi areas practicable…” (ibid: 52). Nation-work never seems to end.

So far I have dealt with the nationform’s search for sameness and the

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perennial anxiety that it produces. Now let me turn to the possible consequences of such anxiety. Here I take up a Sri Lankan instance.

Consequences of Anxiety

On the night of 31 May 1981, Jaffna town in the Tamil-dominated northern Sri Lanka witnessed one of the worst and deliberate acts of nationalist vandalism. The Jaffna Public Library, which was the pride of the town, was doused and set fire to by the Sri Lankan police force. A V J Chandrakanthan was one among the many to visit the library site the next morning. He poignantly writes,

On 1 June 1981, at about 8.00 a m, I was standing close to the main gate of library premises, as were a few hundred Tamils of all ages and professions in shock and disbelief, looking helplessly at the smoke and smouldering fire whose tongues took more than a night to swallow those treasures of inestimable value. The Sinhala reserve police who doused and torched the library could be seen relaxing a few hundred yards away at the pavilion of the Jaffna stadium overlooking the burnt library (Chandrakanthan 2001).

Turning to the significance of this terrible event, Chandrakanthan continues,

Though a cultural pride of the Tamils, this library had rare books and palmyrah-olaleaf manuscripts in both Sinhala and Tamil. For more than half a century, it had been a common shrine of study and research for Sinhalas, Tamils and Muslims. It was thus a profound symbol of the pre-existing interethnic accommodation. Within its walls the Sinhala Buddhist extremist Anagarika Dharmapala and the Tamil-Hindu reformer Sreelasree Arumukha Navalar lived side by side in harmony – through their writings. On those neatly arranged teak shelves several writers, politicians, religious revivalists and law- makers, Tamil federalists and Sinhala nationalists, who had engaged in virulent disputations during their lives, rested in silent serenity. Now and with them the hope of any harmonious coexistence was reduced to ashes (ibid: 160).

One may dispute specific details of and inflections in Chandrakanthan’s account. For instance, Arumukha Navalar need not be considered a social reformer by all, but could be treated as a Saivite sectarian at least by some. Yet, none can ignore the metaphorical intent and importance of Chandrakanthan’s account. A library is a province of diversity, representing a cacophony of different voices from the

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past and visions for the future. Such diversity marks the nation’s incompleteness for it celebrates heterogeneity in the place of sameness. And hence, it is a source of nationalist anxiety. In its effort to reach a state of perfection or homogeneity, the nation will not hesitate even to sacrifice its own allies such as Anagarika Dharmapala if he chooses to coexist with Arumuka Navalar.

2 Heart of Nationalist Dilemma

These two stories tell us that the contradiction between the desire for homogeneity and the actually existing and everemerging diversity is at the heart of the nationalist dilemma. By unravelling this never resolvable dilemma, let me reflect on the nation-form and its inherent and inevitable violence.

First and foremost, despite claims to universality, nation-work is metonymic in nature. That is, in the nation-work it is a part that masquerade as representing the whole. In the Indian case, as we have seen, Hindi-speaking region is claimed to the essence of the nation. Hence Hindi is claimed to be the language of “the land”, “national pride and national sentiment”. It is no different in the Sri Lankan case as well. Writing about those whom he names as Sinhala “unitarians”, Kahigesu Sivathamby notes that they

not only denied the historicity of the other communities, but also did not include them, their culture, and their ways of life when they deal with Sri Lankan culture. The discussions therefore on Sri Lankan music, or dance or literature would only refer to Sinhala music, Sinhala dance and Sinhala literature, and there is no reference to the presence of Tamil music or Tamil dance or Tamil literature in Sri Lanka (Sivathamby 2005: xx).

As we all know, both the metonymic claims – Hindi as standing for India and Sinhala for Sri Lanka – were and are being challenged. In short, nation-work as a metonymic act is always insecure since what is excluded can always challenge it.

The masquerade of a particular as universal can have different outcomes. As Ernesto Laclau reminds us, “If democracy is possible, it is because the universal has no necessary body and no necessary content: different groups, instead, compete between themselves to temporarily

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give their particularisms a function of universal representation” (Laclau 1996: 35). This constant churning and contestation among different identities to assume the role of the universal is indeed the essence of democracy. However, it is a threat for the nation-form since the nation-form, as we have seen, is based on the desire for sameness and homogeneity. The anxiety of the nation-form in the face of the assertion of identities which are not treated as national, is well captured, when Karthigesu Sivathamby contemplatively asks, “perhaps they (the Sri Lankan state) expect the Tamils to become Sinhalas” (Sivathamby op cit: xxiv).

Sivathamby is right and the Sri Lankan state has, to some degree, achieved this. Take for instance, the case of Kamala, a survivor of the 1983 anti-Tamil violence in Sri Lanka who had migrated to New Zealand:

Once when they were in the shop in New Zealand, Kamala’s daughter called her amma but was promptly scolded by her brother, “I told you not to call her amma outside the house but to call her ammi”. Thus he wished to adopt the Sinhala term for “mother”, along with other Sinhala ways, so that they could be protected from the ruthless consequences of being Tamil.2

It is the fear of violence which makes Kamala’s family adopt “Sinhala ways”, and that too only in public. Feigned Sinhala-ness is more an affirmation of her Tamil-ness than an acceptance of Sinhalaness. Thus, the utopian desire of the nation for homo geneity remains, even in the face of its violence, unrealisable. This renders it perennially in a state of anxiety. As William Connolly sums up brilliantly: “The nation is always on the verge of loss” (Connolly 1999: 90).

Incessant Reiteration

Being always at the verge of loss, the nation-form has to continually reiterate and affirm itself. This act of incessant reiteration, paradoxically, needs identities other than the national one, identities that are to be Othered. Striving to speak itself into being, the Hindu nation needs Muslims as its Other; the Sinhala nation needs Tamils as its Other. Thus, as Sankaran Krishna notes, “…the dialectic between the nation and its various ethno nationalist fragments is critical to the production

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and reproduction of both entities” (Krishna 1999: 209). Irrevocably bound to other identities, yet desiring an elusive homogeneity, the nation-form basically makes two modes of interventions to assert its singularity.

Following Connolly, I will call the first mode of nationalist intervention as the strategy of attunement, i e, the nationform tries to attune the recalcitrant identities to the singular subject position that it valorises. This is precisely why the Committee on Emotional Integration not only insists on Hindi as the national language of India, but also showers praise on those non-Hindi speakers who accept Hindi to their own disadvantage. It wrote,

That many non-Hindi speaking people are willing to sink their individual interests for the common good is a heartening sign. They have accepted Hindi as the official language even though they realise that it places them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis those whose mother tongue is Hindi (MoE 1962: 51-52).

The sixth amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution enacted by J R Jeyawardene in August 1983 is a similar act seeking attunement. It required the Tamil members of the Sri Lankan parliament and those in public offices to take an oath of allegiance “to the unitary state of Sri Lanka” (Wilson 2000: 112).

In short, in the national order of things, Tamil-speakers in India should become Hindi-speakers and Tamils in Sri Lanka should become Sri Lankans/Sinhalese. The success of such strategy of attunement is primarily based on self-hate and nationalist violence. William Connolly is indeed right when he notes,

…what appears from one side as the means by which attunement is fostered often appears from another as the terms through which painful artifices of normalisation are enhanced and legitimated (Connolly op cit: 14).

When the strategy of attunement does not work (as it does not in most cases), the nation asserts its appearance of sovereignty by violent punitive action against those whom it considers as not fitting the national order of things. The cases of Sri Lankan state violence in the Tamil areas of the north and the east and Indian state violence in north-east India and Kash0mir are well-documented cases.


‘Naturalness’ of Nation-Form

What is important here is, often such violence does not even get acknowledged as violence given the reified “naturalness” of nation-form as the only possible of political arrangement. A 2007 editorial in The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka is a case in point. In an editorial on the air strikes by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Colombo airport, it wrote, “Not since that fateful Easter Sunday in second world war – 5 April 1942, has Sri Lanka been bombed by air as happened last Sunday night”.3 The Sunday Times has got, in the best traditions of nationalism, history wrong. In its account, the repeated bombardment of the Tamil-dominated eastern province of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan state does not figure at all. In other words, the violence of the state in the name of nation is so normalised that it ceases to be the concern of those who in the metonymic work of nation represent the national authentic.

In short, given the paradoxical quality of the nation-form – as evident in its desire for homogeneity and yet its need to have difference to articulate its distinctiveness

– it cannot escape the path of seeking revenge. This is precisely where Arjun Appadurai’s comment on what he calls “the fear of small numbers” gains important. Meditating on the question of majority and minority, he perceptively notes,

Numerical majorities can become predatory and ethnocidal with regard to the fear of small numbers precisely when some minorities (and their small numbers) remind these majorities of the small gap which lies between their condition as majorities and the horizon of unsullied national whole, a pure untainted national ethnos. This sense of incompleteness can drive majorities into paroxysms of violence against minorities… (Appadurai 2006: 8).

Thus, it is not so much the threat from minorities but their very presence in the nation space, is the problem.

Yet even an act of perfect ethnic cleansing, a very difficult possibility indeed,4 cannot produce the unsullied national whole since identities that putatively sully the national whole are not always already known. They most often belong to the realm of emergent and “not yet”. They surface as if from nowhere. This is perhaps why Ernest Renan, that great enthusiast for the nation-form, noted, “a nation’s existence is… a daily plebiscite” (Renan 1996: 53). A little innovation in the urban youth culture in India such as the celebration of the Valentine Day can be the source of national anxiety and violence. As the Hindu nationalists in India have been arguing, such celebration is foreign to the so-called authentic national culture of India. Foreignness contaminates and comes in the way of national wholeness. Thus nations cannot but be always at the verge of loss and hence always be violent.

3 Beyond the Nation-Form

Given the impossibility of the nation-form as an enabling political arrangement of our times – after all, we have experimented with it for over two long centuries – the work of imagination and the work of politics need to seek newer, pluralistic and enabling forms of politics beyond the nation-form. While this much is clear to me, what this new political form will be is not. It belongs to the realm of the future. Yet some of the critics of nationalism from the past can give us clues as to how to imagine this new political arrangement for the future. I take here Rabindranath Tagore, one of whose poems has been adopted as the national anthem of India, and E V Ramasamy, who radically transformed the political common sense of the Tamilspeaking south India during the 20th century, as two instances of such critique of nationalism.5 Their critiques of nationform, as we will see, became available only within the ethical horizon of the deterritorialised post- national imagination.

Both Rabindranath Tagore and Ramasamy had their share of nationalism. Tagore was an active propagandist of the Swadeshi movement which sought the boycott of foreign-made goods by Indians, following the partition of Bengal in 1905. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1920 only to leave it five years later in 1925. He played a commendable role in organising the Non-Cooperation Movement in the Tamil region. Tagore’s turn against nationalism was presumably facilitated by the devastation and large-scale loss of life wrought by the first world war (Thompson 1992). Ramasamy left his nationalism behind,

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never to return to it, following the persistent refusal of the Indian National Congress to address the question of caste oppression in the nation-in-the-making on the ground that it would be “detrimental to national unity”. Thus for both of them it was a concern about how nations, either claimed to have been fully formed or in the making, addresses the question of difference.

Tagore’s Disenchantment

Rabindranath Tagore’s disenchantment with nationalism was almost unconditional. He wrote,

…the idea of the nation is one of the most powerful anesthetics that man has invented. Under the influence of its fumes the whole people can carry out its systematic programme of the most virulent self-seeking without being in the least aware of its moral perversion... (Tagore 1992: 73).

Thus, nationalism sedates; and self-seeking is its basis. If he saw no merit in nationalism, it was because of the quest for power that was and is central to any nationalist project. According to him, “It has evolved a perfect organisation of power, but not spiritual idealism. It is like the pack of predatory creatures that must have its victims…” (ibid: 58). For him, even the nationalist quest for liberation from the colonial rule was an inadequate basis to justify the nation-form as a sign of freedom. He reasoned, “We must never forget in the present day that those people who have got their political freedom are not necessarily free; they are merely powerful. The passions which are unbridled in them are creating huge organisations of slavery in the guise of freedom” (ibid: 93). His reference to “huge organisations of slavery” is, I speculate, a reference to the nation state and its practices.

Lacking the poet’s sensibility but being a man of the masses, Ramasamy did not talk of metaphorical “spiritual idealism”. Being a rationalist to the core, “spiritual” might have sounded unacceptable to him. He unpacked the play of power dynamics in the nation-form in terms of what it meant for different sections of the society. Referring to the demand for self-rule or swarajya by the mainstream Indian nationalists, he posed, “Is the Brahmin’s rule swarajya for the Parayas (untouchables)?

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Is the cat’s rule swarajya for the rat? Is the landlords’ rule swarajya for the peasants? Is the rule of the propertied swarajya for the labourers?”.6 In short, Ramasamy’s question to the nationalists adds content to and renders visible what Rabindranath Tagore names as the “slavery in the guise of freedom”.

Let me stay with Ramasamy’s question for a little longer. First of all, by setting at play a range of identities based on power or lack of it within the so-called nationspace, he contests the singularity and homogeneity of the nation. Second, he views national self-rule as an impossible political project given the innumerable hierarchies and relations of authority and subordination. Third, he seeks a form of politics that will allow space for multiple contestations by those who are victims of different forms of power.

If nationalism glorifies some of its selectively chosen past as the source of national authenticity, Tagore and Ramasamy, freed from the burden of the nation and transcending its territorial parochialism, looked for intellectual and political resources from the world at large. For them, borders did not matter but ideas did. Writing about colonialism in India when anticolonial mass mobilisation was already at its peak, Tagore, for instance, noted, “In India, we are suffering from this conflict between the spirit of the West and the Nation of the West” (Tagore op cit: 58). For him, the spirit of the west was indeed acceptable, while the nations of the west were not. Similarly, Ramasamy argued, “The ‘Hindu India’ which believes that people should abide by the authority of the ruler and he is god-like, has been taught by the ‘English India’ that the ruler should abide by the people and he is the servant of the people”.7 Similar to Tagore, he too traced the failure of the English in India to their national greed “to carry on their rule in this country (India) forever and to generously plunder and transfer the wealth of this country to theirs”.8 Further, his notion of the Dravidian, which he used as an all-embracing trope for multiple forms of oppression, was inclusive enough to accommodate anyone from beyond the narrow parochial national territory, if he or she stood for the equality of all. He asserted, “If Japanese accept

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that there is no inequality based on birth and opposes practices which are based on such inequality, we can accept him as a Dravidian” (Ramasamy 1991:8).

Premises to Re-imagine Politics

This is an exceedingly simple and in certain ways, a colourless summary of the thoughts of two complex thinkers on nationalism. But it offers us at least a couple of premises to re-imagine politics beyond the nation-form. First, politics has to be a pere nnial contestation of different forms of power by acknowledging and addressing difference as the fundamental reality of the social. Second, a politics beyond nation has to be based on a de-territorialised imagination that surpasses territorial parochialism of the nation-form and embraces the world as a terrain of possibilities, alliances, and constraints. Only by unsettling our normalised belief in nation as the only possible political form, we can think through the potentials these enabling premises offer us.

Let me conclude by once again returning to Tagore. Narrating his own brush with nationalism and provoking us go beyond it, he writes,

Even though from childhood I have been taught that idolatry of the nation is almost better than reverence to God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching, and it is my conviction that my countrymen will truly gain their India by fighting against the education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity (Tagore op cit: 83).

“Ideals of humanity” – yes, in the plural so that one can avoid the trap of homogenising humanism – is precisely where we have to begin our imagination beyond the nation-form and its violence.


1 While Benedict Anderson argues nations as modular already imagined in the west, Partha Chatterjee contests this position and claims it as historically specific. For their respective views, see Anderson (1983), Chatterjee (1993).

2 See Kanapathipillai (1992): “The Indian case is not different. As a recent newspaper article puts it, “Delhi attracts labourers, domestic helps and rickshaw pullers from West Bengal and Jharkhand… Many among them are Muslims… But ask them their names, and there will be a stony silence for a while before they stammer out a Hindu name.” Susenjit Guha, “Shahida at Home, Shyamoli at Work”, Deccan Chronicle, 18 September 2007.

3 “Air Terror and Comedy of Error”, The Sunday Times, 1 April 2007. I am thankful to Darshan Ambalavanar for bringing this editorial to my notice and to Pradeep Jaganathan for gettimg me a copy of it.

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4 We have to remember here that it is often difficult even in conflict situations to determine one’s identity. For instance, during 1983 anti-Tamil violence in Sri Lanka, Tamils could pass off as Sinhalese and Muslims and save themselves. See Kanapathipillai (1992: 335).

5 On the politics of E V Ramasamy, see M S S Pandian, Brahmin and Non-Brahmin: Genealogies of the Tamil Political Present (Delhi: Permanent Black), chapter 6.

6 Viduthalai, 19 January 1948, in V Anaimuthu (ed.), Periyar Chinthanaikal (Tiruchirapalli: Thinker’s Forum, 1974), Vol II, p 673. For a detailed analysis of E V Ramasamy’s critique of nationalism, see M S S Pandian (1999).

7 Speech by E V Ramasamy at Kollampaalayam on 19 September 1937.

8 Kudi Arasu, 17 may 1931.


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Appadurai, Arjun (2006): Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (Durham and London: Duke University Press), p 8.

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Ramasamy (1991): Dravida Nadu, 23 November 1946, quoted in K Kesavan, Dravidar Iyakkamum Mozhi Kolkaiyum (Sivaganga: Chelma), p 8.

Renan, Ernest (1996): “What Is a Nation?” in Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny (ed.), Becoming National: A Reader (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press), p 53.

Sivathamby, Karthigesu (2005): Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan (Colombo: Avikam), p xx.

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Wilson, A Jeyaratnam (2000): Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Development in the 19th and 20th Centuries (University of British Columbia: UBC Press).

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