The Congress party allies are now using the Russia-Ukraine war to fan the North-South divide in India and the epicentre of this unfortunate politics seems to be Tamil Nadu.
It was reported yesterday, on the 3rd of March 2022, that the Tamil Nadu government was set to send 4 legislators to Hungary, Romania, Poland and Slovakia for evacuation of stranded students from the State. Reportedly, there were 4 IAS officers also deputed for the task, the assist the legislators in their task.
TN Govt to send Rajya Sabha MPs @tiruchisiva , @pudugaiabdulla , Lok Sabha MP @DrKalanidhiV and MLA @TRBRajaa to Hungary, Romania, Poland and Slovakia for evacuation of stranded students from the State.— Arvind Gunasekar (@arvindgunasekar) March 3, 2022
Four IAS officers also deputed along with the legislators for assistance.
Besides the supposed PR stunt to send a contingent from Tamil Nadu specifically to help Tamil students, MK Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu took to Twitter to share a letter that he had written to the External Affairs Minister urging him to help the Tamil students with more alacrity than other students. In his letter, Stalin sought MEA clearances for the team proposed by GoTN to coordinate with the Indian embassies in Romania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
Wrote to Hon'ble @DrSJaishankar requesting him to increase the number of Tamil students to be evacuated from #Ukraine by focussed intervention and sought MEA clearances for the team proposed by GoTN to coordinate with the Indian embassies in Romania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. pic.twitter.com/175b3qthcB— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) March 3, 2022
In the letter, MK Stalin first thanked the MEA for appointing an exclusive nodal officer for the Tamil students being evacuated at the request of Stalin. Stalin says that he has shared the details of 2,223 students with the MEA and Ukraine for speedy evacuation. He then goes on to say that while he appreciates the efforts, the “number of Tamil Nadu students being brought back needs to increased by focussed intervention at the ground level”. Stalin claims that more than 1,000 Tamil students are awaiting evacuation in Romania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Essentially, MK Stalin says that he has deputed a contingent of 4 politicians and 4 IAS officers from the state to go to these countries and coordinate the safe return of 1,000 Tamil students with the embassies there, and therefore, he should get clearance for the same.
At first glance, this might look like a cheap PR student by the Tamil Nadu government in alliance with the Congress party, however, one has to wonder if there is more than meets the eye given the statements being made by Rahul Gandhi himself.
In February 2022, Rahul Gandhi – the scion of Gandhi Parivar ignited a massive debate in the country by questioning the very idea of India as a ‘nation’. Speaking in the Parliament on the motion of thanks to President’s Address in Lok Sabha, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi claimed that India was just a “union of states” and not as a nation.
“India is described in the Indian Constitution as a union of states and not a nation. One cannot rule over the people of a state in India. Different languages and cultures cannot be suppressed. It is a partnership, not a kingdom,” claimed Rahul Gandhi, who launched a tirade against the Modi government.
In his speech, Rahul Gandhi insisted that the power arrangement between the states and the centre is of a “negotiation” and insinuated that India did not have a single national identity, instead, the idea of India rose from an agreement or a negotiation between the provincial units. The Gandhi-scion also brought the reference of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, imagining them to be distinct entities and asserted that the ruling dispensation treated these constitutional units as its kingdom.
It is evident from Rahul Gandhi’s speech that he truly believes that Tamil Nadu is a state distinct in its identity and existence from the rest of India and he believes that the fact that it is a part of India is only a “negotiated” reality.
In this light, the actions of Stalin appear far more sinister than a simple PR stunt.
Firstly, it is evident that MK Stalin has no concern for INDIAN students who are stuck in war-torn nations and are trying to make their way back as the Indian government does everything conceivable to bring them back home. He is more concerned solely about Tamil students because he seems to believe that the regional identity of these students are far more important than their national identity.
The far more sinister aspect of the stunt being pulled by MK Stalin is that he somehow insinuates that the central government is being partial against Tamil students as compared to students from the rest of India. There is no plausible reason why only Tamil students must be expeditiously evacuated when every Indian life is just as precious. Therefore, this stunt appears specifically targeted at giving out the message that there is some sort of partiality being met out on the basis of regional identity.
Essentially, therefore, it would appear that MK Stalin, Congress’ ally, is using the Russia-Ukraine conflict to further fan regional divide.
The ‘Union of States’ speech of Rahul Gandhi was not the first time this playbook was used. In February last year, Rahul Gandhi had claimed that representing a constituency in Kerala has been a refreshing change for a person like him who had represented a constituency in Northern India for the first 15 years of his career. The Congress leader had said that people in Kerala are interested in issues, unlike others. Though it looked like he was praising Keralites, in reality, he was insinuating that the people in the north were not as serious as the people of the south.
It seems like Rahul Gandhi and his allies have now gotten hold of a new playbook of covertly reviving sub-nationalism sentiments to polarise the country on regional lines, if unchecked, which may slowly result in strengthening separatist tendencies in many states.