An exclusive conversation with Mrs Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, walking us through various mythmaking exercises of South India & Tamil Nadu in specific, her experiences so in public life and governance so far, life lessons and the influence that she has experienced with close encounter with Shri Karunanidhi and his life instances. During the conversation she opens about her various insecurities while growing up and the dilemmas while starting up her political journey. She has spoken at length & with a lot of heart on her interests on circularity, ecosystem creation and sustainability. As you approach to read this first hand open conversation with Mrs Kanimozhi, let me assure you – through the conservation you are going to encounter glimpse of brilliance of the late master of the south, insecurities of a politician in the opposition, dreams and faith of a mother and a streams of emotion and passion :
Q: Mutthamizharignar as an institution as seen India grow from the days of 1947s to the emergency of 80s to the liberation of 90s and the UPA days. Hardly we have any public persona with such widened exposure. Can you for the benefit of our readers briefly encapsulate what was his political substance made of?
Ans : As a teen he was captivated by the politics of social reformer ‘Periyar’ EV Ramasamy. In 1925, Periyar, meaning ‘the elder’ in Tamil, had broken with Mohandas Gandhi and the Indian National Congress over Gandhi’s endorsement of the caste system, and Periyar’s radically anti-caste politics. In his magazine, ‘Kudiyarasu’ (Republic), Periyar often wrote that the departure of the British would leave independent India in the control of a cabal of upper class and upper-caste Brahmins, who would further entrench the caste system in the country. Where Gandhi frequently infused caste-Hinduism into the freedom struggle, Periyar espoused atheism, rationalism, self-respect, social justice and pride in a southern Dravidian identity. The Dravidian movement would count some of southern India’s brightest minds amongst its followers: C.N. Annadurai, a young sharp student unionist in Chennai, was one of the movement’s most brilliant orators. Karunanidhi too, was drawn into its fold. So yes, his ideological blocks were mainly formulated by the believes of Periyar and Gandhi, with his world views being deeply influenced by that of Pandit Nehru.
Q: Recently the custodial death shocked the conscience of the entire nation, what’s your take on the entire issue?
Ans: We [the society] have always overlooked violence, we have always sought to justify police violence. We always thought it was okay to beat criminals, or to even shoot them. It is okay to kill them because they could otherwise come out on bail and be denied justice. In our films, if the hero is a police officer, he has every right to kill.
When the lockdown started, there was an acceptance about police violence because many of us thought it was the only way to make people stay at home. Now we suddenly find it outrageous because it has gone beyond some beatings, it has taken two lives.
We should also remember that those who have died are from the middle class, they are educated. It is not an auto driver or a daily wage labourer who has been killed. And that is why it has shaken our conscience. Why are we never talking about someone who has committed suicide because of constant harassment at the hands of police? There are many such cases. There is increased domestic violence under lockdown. Why is this not part of our narrative anywhere?
I have met district officials, DGP and others. They keep saying the law will take its course. I wish it did. Nevertheless, I think the district SP should take responsibility of this and act accordingly. He did not communicate to NHRC about the occurrence of deaths within 24 hours, as is mandatory. We have to make existing checks and balances functional enough to achieve this. We need stringent laws in place to punish these kind of crimes.
Q: The recent controversy that broke loose post the surfacing the NEP & your tragic experience at the airport, can you please let our readers know what is your opposition to hindi ?
Ans: Equating knowledge of Hindi with nationalism was “shameful” and expressed concern that it had already edged out languages in establishing one’s identity. The issue is not about knowing Hindi or not. It is shameful (to say) I can be Indian only if I know Hindi. I did not translate Hindi for anyone, even English also I did not translate. How can I translate without knowing the language? In my school I learnt only Tamil and English. Even (after) staying in Delhi for many years I don’t know Hindi.
Q: How does elections and their outcomes impact life away from the people, news and headlines? How do you cope up with it? How is the bonhomie within the present young leaders of our times: the likes of the Rahul Gandhis, the Jagan Reddys, the Akhilesh Yadavs, the Supriya Sules and the Jayant Chaudharys keeping aside the politics of the ground?
Ans: Politics is not an easy thing, it’s a complex thing. It is not a one issue horse; many things do add up in totality and formulate the end result. At times, it is quite draining and that’s when your purpose for public life comes handy. During tough electoral times one has to be extremely positive and constantly keep learning things and evolving. Unwinding and spending a week or two with your family, friends and pursuing a hobby to keep me fresh and I have friends both political and apolitical with whom I share a really old bond. Among the political leaders of my age group and the names you mentioned, I share quite nice rapport differing with personalities for sure. Among the names you took, I am probably the youngest – there is and has to be a sense of formality in every professional relation you share and I have an open communication with all of them. They all are extremely grounded, humble individuals with their own stories and have seen the world through many lens and experiences and yes one can learn and evolve oneself by gaining the positives out of those experiences.
Q: What are the top 3 most used applications on your phone?
Ans: Well I am no expert in technology though I have a decent exposure to it and in today’s post data explosion age gadgets and applications have become an essential part of our lives. In this quarantine phase I have been using Instagram a lot. Other than that three applications that I use most frequently, one definitely has to be Twitter – I use it a lot, in fact that’s my primary source of news these days, then Medium – I use it for in-depth readings on various issues and third would be pinterest – Its fun and a nice medium to share your world view through photos and graphics. Certainly its today’s fast paced world pictures speaks 1000 words and more.
Q: What would be your one shot message to all the young Indians reading this piece on you on a lazy Sunday afternoon with the alarms of the Monday Blues starting to ring in their head ?
Ans: My message will be being apolitical will be the biggest sin that we can commit as young citizens of India for the generations to come. We are living through a very difficult time in India where opinions are highly divided, the society is broken down to a binary of either with us or not, there is a very little scope to dissent – the onus is on us, the young to restore back the social, sober and inclusive India in the house. In order to beat the menace of fake news and social media influence be aware and take the matters of polity and governance not a butt of joke. Please be politically aware and vote. This is our country and we MPs are you representatives so your awareness will hold us accountable.
Q: One final question, How does Kanimozi Karunadi wants her to be remembered or addressed by the youth of the India, specifically Tamilnadu ? What role you wish to play for them and if you have any specific message for them.
Ans : Well right now I don’t have a public office to much on a broader scale however on specifics I have been associated with various socially relevant projects and doing my best to impact or guide as many lives for the good as much as possible. However given a chance to intervene at a more fundamental level of governance I will love to address the creation of sustainable job market for both our skilled and unskilled workforce. There are so much talent in the small towns, tehsils and villages of India, I will be privileged if I can play a role channelizing that for the better and mentor them in what so manner I can. I would love to be remember as a catalyst in the process that focused on creating better education, skillsets, health and well-being, clean energy and sustainable industry, sustainable use of land, sustainable cities & exponential digital technologies. On a personal note I wish to be remembered by people as a good human, empathetic, someone who had her heart at the right place and always strive to create a difference irrespective of public office, times and situations in life and politics.
The Editors Take: India is due of a political overhaul where sycophancy, mediocrity and hypocrisy is replaced with empathy, merit and integrity. An arrangement where the electoral can hold the elected accountable to their concerns. India’s present political parties’ arrangement has passed its expiry date plagued with age old ideas, extremely complicated or virtual no decisive decision-making tenacity and a complete submission to cronies. A new political order and socio-political evolution cutting across parties is long due. The interaction with Mrs Kanimozhi Karunanidhi was extremely heart-warming, more so not only coming from the sharpest woman voice down south but also a free thinking, well-educated Indian who is equally aspirational and rooted as an average Indian will be. More politically relevant, the candidness in which she understands her roots yet at the same time not only showed the interest or the mettle to walk the tough path but also the tenacity with which she wants the bring in exponential, circular and sustainable ideas to the mainstream narrative for a young, vibrant and inclusive India. With educated, experience, empathetic young guards like her in the ranks of the opposition who understands her roots and the present regime’s and at the same time concedes the need of present a comprehensive alternative vision? Only time and probably 2024 will be a dress rehearsal to how composite will India’s opposition parties be and how well these young educated more than a generational political lineage of India present her the political evolution she deserves. Till then it is very much, an everyone’s guess!