Prof. V.K. Natraj, former director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Mysore, writes an original and outstanding letter to the editor of The Hindu, a proactive epistle that underlines the role that public intellectuals ought to play:
“I am writing to share my anguish and disappointment over an event that has largely gone unnoticed in the media except for a few letters to the editor in the Kannada print medium. I refer to the absence of sympathy and a sense of shared loss from friends in Tamil Nadu for all those who have been devastated by the ravages of the floods in northern Karnataka.
“Expressing sympathy, indeed sorrow at the suffering visited on thousands, most of them thoroughly ill-equipped to withstand this onslaught, is what sensitivity is all about. When in 2005 Tamil Nadu suffered unimaginable horrors from the tsunami, the citizens of the city of Mysore under the leadership of the pontiff of the Suttur Math came forward to raise funds to rehabilitate the victims and built dwellings for them in Mudaliarkuppam.
“Prior to this, interim measures of relief were provided to school children and fisherfolk whose livelihood was threatened. I understand that a whole colony rehabilitated with assistance from Mysore is now called Mysore colony. When in neighbouring Karnataka people suffered something similar one would expect Tamilians to rise to the occasion. Sadly no such thing has happened.
“Let me add that I write as one who has enjoyed the hospitality of Tamil Nadu in Chennai for over half a decade and know that deep down there is nothing but goodwill between the peoples of the two States. Even now I hope my Tamilian friends will do what we know they expect of themselves. It would be a sad travesty of the enormous universality represented by Tiruvalluvar and Sarvajna whose statues were unveiled not long ago in Bangalore and Chennai respectively.
“May I express the hope too that Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, one of the last in the lineage of senior political leaders in this country, will seek from Tamilians what they owe to themselves. I also add an appeal to the socially and morally conscious class in Tamil Nadu to further a cause which they must hold dear to their hearts.”
Photograph: courtesy Institute for Social and Economic Change