Scotland’s Past and Tamil Nadu’s Future

Why do countries exist? Why should they? And what is their definition? Are they subject to change? Why do countries not hold referendums to decide the future of disputed regions around the world? Did not India promise a plebiscite at the time Kashmir was acceded to India in 1948? Why can’t Kashmiris vote like the Scots did in 2014? What about Tamil Nadu? Why is it part of India? It wasn’t ever part of India until the British came in, was it? Aren’t many of the states in India similar to Scotland? These are some of the questions that keep popping in one’s head as one reads through TM Devine’s Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present.

Sir Tom Devine, yes he was knighted, is a professor of History at the University of Edinburgh. So he does give us a much needed lesson in Scotland’s history. The Union of Scotland with England, we are made to understand, was complex, complicated and a result of multiple competing interests in the late 17th and early 18th Century. The English wanted a buffer in the north against the scheming French. Presbyterian Scots feared the return of Stuart Kings and their Catholicism more than they hated the English. The Staurt Kings were preparing to take over Scotland with French help. The result of all this was that in 1707, the ancient Kingdom of Scotland merged with England to form Britain.

At the time of Union, Scotland was impoverished by successive droughts in the 1690s and owing to disastrous wars. It was, Devine argues, the poorest country in Europe at the time. But the Union made it possible for Scotland to find a market for its produce, primarily linen and agricultural produce, in England. With the last of the Jacobite rising being crushed in 1745, Scotland became truly prosperous shortly thereafter. Devine again points to how Scotland moved from being the poorest to being one of the richest in Europe in the 18th Century, culminating in the Scottish Enlightenment. Scots, with their long and storied martial lineage, formed the backbone of British military forces in the 19th Century, strengthening bonds with England. Devine presents data to point to how the Scots were overrepresented compared to their population in the military and as staff of East India Company. The small country also built most of the world’s ships in this period.

But questions of Scottish identity, Edinburgh’s friction with Westminster and a long declining economy in the second half of 20th Century seem to have found a perfect target in Margret Thatcher. She was the embodiment of everything the Scots hated about the English. It’s at this point one wonders if commentators aligned with the BJP who now compare Narendra Modi with Margret Thatcher may be more right than they wish to be. Aggressively Hindu Delhi functionaries of the BJP sound eerily similar (and far worse) than the Tories in Westmister that Devine describes.

Kashmir, however, did not benefit from its union with India the way Scotland did in the first 250 years. So perhaps that’s a bad comparison. But a state that did is Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu was comparable to rest of India in most aspects at the time of independence. However, it now ranks alongside Kerala as one of India’s best governed states in terms of various indicators in health, education and economic growth. It also happens to be a region that always stood distinct from India both in terms of a territory and in terms of cultural identity.

That brings us to the question of: why should unions of regions into a nation state be treated as inviolable? Shouldn’t they be a question that the populace gets to  vote on at least once every generation? At this point, it’s clear Tamil Nadu has little to gain from India. It generates more revenue than it gets back from Delhi, it has much better health and education indices than India and the Lok Sabha is likely to end Tamil Nadu’s honeymoon of higher per capita representation through frozen delimitation in the next decade. The last factor will be an ugly flashpoint when it happens; it is an irreversible demographic trend that’s going to put Tamil Nadu at significant odds with north India. Shouldn’t political parties in the state therefore have an SNP equivalent? Even the Tamil Nationalist parties in the fray for 2016 Assembly Elections, Naam Tamilar or MDMK for instance, don’t seem to be approaching this question at all. The DMK, which was the SNP in India before the SNP got to be itself in the UK, has now walked a long way back from its Dravida Nadu demand.

The solution, one thinks, is that people should be allowed to hold a referendum if enough of them agree to hold a referendum in the first place. And that should include options of everything including independence. Maybe this could result in a problem when it’s used frequently; simple safeguards like limiting the number of votes per person in a lifetime for such referendums could be added to it. A simple rule of a modern Democracy ought to be that it doesn’t rule over a people who don’t wish to be ruled over. It’s about time mankind moved there. Be it Kashmir today or Tamil Nadu 10 years from now.

3 thoughts on “Scotland’s Past and Tamil Nadu’s Future

  1. BJP Fan

    Pretty dumb article.

    Extremely naive to look at UK-Scotland relations and equations as separate from the unfolding situation in Europe. The only reason the SNP dared to dream about an independence vote is because they thought they could waltz right into the European union and crucially have the strong Euro as their currency. The SNP is a Europfile party.

    Once Spain blocked their entry owing to issue with Catalonia, the gig was up and they started coming out with ideas such as being independent but still keeping the pound. A ridiculous idea rejected outright by the Westminster based government. They then started talking about devo max which was also outright refused.

    Wise as well that Scotland did not separate. With brent crude being under $40 a barrel it would have mean a fiscal disaster for scotland. During the referendum oil was hovering around $110.

    Stick to talking about caste. It seems thats all what your good for.

  2. வ.கொ.விஜயராகவன்

    தேசங்களின் எல்லைகள் அனந்தம் வரை சாஸ்வதமாக நிற்பவை அல்ல என்பது சரியான பார்வைதான். அது தற்காலத்தில் தமிழ்நாடு என்றழைக்கைப்படும் இந்திய மாநிலத்திற்க்கும் பொருந்தும். தற்கால “தமிழ்நாடு” என்றழைக்கபடுவது 60 ஆண்டுகள்தான் – நேரு காலத்தில் மொழிவரி மாகாணங்களை பிரித்த பின்புதான் தற்கால தமிழ்நாடு கிடைக்கிறது. சரித்திரத்தில் அது ஒரு உதிய படைப்பு – அதற்க்கு முன் அப்படி இருந்ததில்லை. சங்ககால குறுநில மன்னர்கள், மூவேந்தர்கள், பல்லவர்கள் காலத்தில் அரசியல் அதிகாரம் பரந்து இருந்தது – ஒரு “தமிழ்நாடு” இல்லை. சோழர் காலத்தில் அது சோழ சாம்ராஜ்யத்தின் ஒரு பகுதியாக , மண்டலங்களாக, பிரிந்து கிடந்தது. பாண்டியர் காலத்திலும் , பாண்டியர்கள் எல்லா தமிழ் பேசும் பகுத்களையும் ஒரு ஆதீனத்தில் கொண்டு வர முடியவில்லை, பிறகு தமிழர் பேசும் பகுதிகள் விஜயநகர கட்டுப்பாடில் இருந்தன, பின்பு நவாப்புகள், பாளையக்காரர்கள், மஹாராஷ்ட்ரியர்கள் ஆதிக்கம் செலுத்தினர். பின்பு ஆங்கிலேயர். எதிர்காலத்தில் தற்கால “தமிழ்நாட்டின்” பகுதிகள் த‌னியாக போக வாய்ப்புண்டு. தற்கால தமிழ்நாடும் சாஸ்வதம் அல்ல.

  3. Vimal

    With utmost modesty, I’d hoping to throw some light on the Big questions raised purely out of the Love for Scotland’s and Tamil Nadu’s future.

    At the broadest level, Societies & communities view on national identity and political ideology evolves over time.

    1. Why should unions of regions into a nation state be treated as inviolable?

    In the case of Scotland, its communities have always seen itself as an autonomous country. The British unionists have always make a case for the ‘Common good’. Their simple argument as in the campaign is that we are ‘better together’

    Needless to say, Tamil Nadu is a little different. It would be interesting if a survey was taken in TN to rate the Indian Government (Centre) support to TN among 1 to 5. I suspect the answer would be over 4 or 3 in TN. Historic reasons for this could be due to the Indian National Congress’s victory in the Madras state since independence upto 1967.

    Unionists will always believe in the common good and feel that we are better together. Thus giving a feeling of inviolability.

    2. Shouldn’t they be a question that the populace gets to vote on at least once every generation?

    On the question of People’s referendum. Liberal views would suggest that we must give the decision to the people. But When and how often boils down to politicians accurately representing the viewpoints of the voting public. The elephant is the room is ‘Good Governance’. I’m sure both of us agree that we need a Good honest politicians (who reflect the views of the people) to act in our common interest in a number of areas including education, health, energy and corruption. But all that is for another day’s debate.

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