Out of sync with Dravidianism

R.N. Ravi’s statements and positions on various subjects are upsetting the political balance

June 29, 2022 12:15 am | Updated 01:10 am IST

Governor  R.N. Ravi at the Ramakrishna Misssion Residential High School in Chennai.

Governor R.N. Ravi at the Ramakrishna Misssion Residential High School in Chennai. | Photo Credit: RAGU R

In the nine months he has occupied the Tamil Nadu Raj Bhavan, Governor R.N. Ravi, unlike most of his predecessors, has shown no hesitancy in propagating ideological and policy positions that go against the Dravidian school of political thought. While some who had handled gubernatorial assignments in the past had shown scholarship, many had confined themselves to attending functions and delivering speeches. They rarely pushed a counter-ideological narrative, even when the ruling parties in the State were opposed to the party running the Union government. However, Mr. Ravi, a former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau, has disrupted this political balance by openly taking contrarian stands and speaking his mind on issues he holds dear.

Earlier this month, he said: “[Lord] Ayyappa seva is Rashtra seva (national service). There should be no doubt about it because this Rashtra, Bharat, was created by our rishis and sages who expounded and expanded the truth in our vedas, which became our Sanatana Dharma. It is this Sanatana Dharma which built this Bharat.” Questioning the notion that unity in diversity is a constitutional construct, he said, “It is not. Constitution doesn’t carry the soul of India. Constitution is for the governance of India. Bharat was born thousands... of years before Constitution was written… Sanatana Dharma has to prevail for the sake of the world, humanity”.

His defence of Sanatana Dharma created ripples in the rationalist discourse-dominated Tamil Nadu, which has politically for decades opposed it on the grounds that it perpetuates the Varnashrama dharma (caste-related occupation). Leaders such as Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi’s Thol Thirumavalavan have been charging the BJP of attempting to make Sanatana Dharma the Constitution of the country. DMK treasurer T.R. Baalu said statements such as these are unbecoming of a person holding a constitutional position and who should propagate secular principles.

On Sunday, the Governor said: “Spine of Bharat is Sanatana Dharma”. In an apparent counter to Mr. Baalu’s statement, he said vested interests have created the impression that secularism, as defined in the Constitution, had nothing to do with Dharma. “This is a mischievous and distorted interpretation. The political interpretation has put institutions that are supposed to carry Dharma forward in a very hard place. Dharma is all encompassing and inclusive,” he said.

On policy matters, Mr. Ravi continues to evangelically push for implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which the State has rejected. Not only does he feel this is the right time to implement the policy, but he publicly told Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy, “I would suggest [that you] kindly go through the NEP. You see the vast vistas it opens.”

Mr. Ravi has also made political remarks on subjects outside the purview of his office. Last month he dubbed the Popular Front of India “a very dangerous organisation whose aim is to destabilise the country”.

While the ruling DMK has occasionally expressed its disapproval of the Governor’s views through its party mouthpiece Murasoli, a section of academics too is opposed to his stand. In a recent letter, State Platform for Common School System (Tamil Nadu) general secretary P.B. Prince Gajendra Babu urged the Governor to uphold the Constitution and “respect the mandate of the people and desist from engaging himself in countering the policy position of the duly elected government”.

Meanwhile, the State government is awaiting the Governor’s assent for the 21 Bills passed by the Legislative Assembly that were sent to Raj Bhavan many months ago.


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