Than A Minority Matter
A Kerala Police
report that Tamils residing in Idukki district may force a redrawing of
borders has Tamil Nadu’s politicians up in arms
PC VINOJ KUMAR
AN INTELLIGENCE report
of the Kerala Police, which says the growing Tamil population in Idukki
district can be a threat to Kerala’s territorial integrity, has
A 15-month-old Kerala
Police report warns the
state government of
the growing Tamil
presence in Devikulam
and Peermedu taluks
Political parties in
Tamil Nadu demand
the two taluks be
ceded to it because
of their Tamil
The report says the
dispute will lead to the
taluks demanding a
merger with Tamil Nadu
As a remedy, the
strict control in
issuing voter ID and
ration cards to
Tamils in the taluks
into a controversy
with political parties in Tamil Nadu yelling themselves hoarse. The report
dated November 17, 2006, which was filed by the deputy superintendent
of police (SB-CID) of Idukki district to the additional director general
of police (Intelligence) SB-CID, warns the state government that it could
lose Devikulam and Peermedu taluks of Idukki district to Tamil Nadu if
the Tamil influx is not controlled.
Moreover, the two
taluks had witnessed agitations for a merger with Tamil Nadu during the
1950s, when the first States Reorganisation Commission was redrawing the
state boundaries. Even Tamil Nadu had demanded that the taluks be given
Reacting to the report,
a copy of which is with TEHELKA, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has expressed
concern about the welfare of Tamils living in Devikulam, Peermedu and
Udumbanchola taluks of Idukki district.
The report apprehends
that the Mullaperiyar dam issue would lead to demands from the Tamilmajority
taluks to join the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu controls
the dam situated in Kerala’s Idukki district through an agreement
signed between the erstwhile princely state of Travancore and the then
Madras government in 1886. As per the agreement, Travancore gave 8,000
acres for building the dam on a 999- year lease for an annual rent of
Rs 40,000. In 1970, the two state governments gave the agreement their
stamp of approval, stating that the “rights, liabilities and obligations
of parties under the principal deed have devolved on the government of
Kerala and the government of Tamil Nadu, they being successors in interest”.
While Tamil Nadu demands
that Kerala should implement the Supreme Court order to raise the storage
level of the dam from the existing 136 ft to 142 ft, Kerala has argued
that the dam is too old and weak to store more water.
Drawing the state
government’s attention to the agitations in Tamil Nadu on the Mullaperiyar
issue, the report says that various political and social organisations
of Tamil Nadu want the taluks ceded to it. “Regional political parties
like the PMK and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) are
also supporting the agitation,” says the report.
It further states
that these parties were demanding that the Devikulam and Peermedu taluks
be given to Tamil Nadu since they have a Tamil majority. “After
the establishment of Kerala, both in Devikulam and Peermedu taluks as
well as in Udumbanchola taluk, the Tamil population has considerably increased.
Tamils move in as daily wage earners and traders. Initially they stay
in rented houses, and then become the owners. Finally they settle down
in Kerala after obtaining election photo-identity and ration cards,”
says the report. As a remedy, it suggests stricter controls in the issuing
of voter ID cards and ration cards to Tamils.
The PMKs state propaganda
wing leader, A. Vyianarasu, claims the Kerala government has recently
directed the Idukki district administration to take action based on the
SB-CID report. “Tamils in Devikulam and Peermedu taluks would be
reduced to second-class citizens and we may soon have in Kerala a situation
similar to Malaysia or Sri Lanka,” he says. The party’s founder,
Dr S. Ramadoss, says he plans to take up the matter with the Kerala government
and also with the Centre. “Tamil Nadu has a large number of people
from other states, including Malayalis. They all live peacefully here.
It is very unfortunate that Tamils are being treated in this manner in
other states,” he told TEHELKA.
BOTH THE PMK and the
MDMK deny that they have raised the demand for the amalgamation of Devikulam
and Peermedu with Tamil Nadu. “There is no such demand. But it is
true that Tamil Nadu lost the two taluks because of KM Panicker, who was
a member of the States Reorganisation Commission. Panicker belonged to
Kerala and had properties in the two taluks. He didn’t want them
to go to Tamil Nadu,” says MDMK headquarters secretary KS Radhakrishnan.
This is a common charge voiced by many parties in the state. Thamizhar
Desiya Iyakkam leader Pazha Nedumaran says he would campaign for the inclusion
of the two taluks in Tamil Nadu if the Central government were to constitute
the Second States Reorganisation Commission, as is being speculated.
Babu, head of the Malayalam department at the University of Madras, who
assisted in translating the SB-CID report for TEHELKA, was wary of its
contents. “The Kerala government should not congratulate officers
who file such reports. It has to take into account the interests of Malayalis
living in states such as Tamil Nadu. We experience no discrimination in
Tamil Nadu and are free to settle down and work anywhere in the state.
That’s how Tamils should be treated in Kerala too,” he says.
Babu also points to
the age-old cultural and linguistic ties between the two states and says
nothing should be done to spoil this relationship. “The Malayalam
language is derived from Tamil. The first Malayalam department in the
country was established at Madras University in 1927. The Tamil Nadu government
extends full support to our department. It generously allocates funds
and treats us at par with the Tamil department,” he adds.
M. Nanda Govind, the
state president of the Confederation of Tamil Nadu Malayali Associations,
says 43 lakh Malayalis presently reside in Tamil Nadu. “Ten lakh
Malayalis live in Chennai alone. Last year, the Tamil Nadu government
declared Onam a public holiday in several districts including Chennai.
Nothing should be done to disturb this harmony,” he says. Nanda
Govind had earlier written to the Kerala chief minister demanding protection
for Tamils living in the state in the wake of reports of violence against
Tamils following the bifurcation of the Palghat Railway Division. He said
he would take up the issue of Devikulam and Peermedu taluks as well.
When contacted, Kerala
ADGP (Intelligence) Jacob Punnoose said that the Kerala government has
no intention of harming Tamil minorities living in any part of the state.
“The ADGP (Intelligence) receives several reports each day relating
to various issues. The government in general and the home department in
particular would not endorse such reports and opinions without going into
their merits. The letter you are mentioning is about oneand- a-half years
old. It is not the view of the government and no decision has been taken
to restrict the distribution of election ID cards and ration cards to
Tamils in Peermedu and Devikulam. People are living there in harmony,
irrespective of the language divide,’’ he said.
Punnoose also maintained
that Tamils in Kerala have absolute faith in the impartiality of the police.
“The police on its part would not engage in any act that would create
tension among the people.” Nevertheless, the Kerala Police have
infused life into a matter that was as good as dead.
inputs from KA Shaji in Thiruvananthapuram