Two US based doctors, Dr. Vijay Janakiraman and Dr. S.T. Sambandam have taken initiatives to open a chair for Tamil in Harvard University. A couple of months back the Tamil Nadu government donated Rs. 10 crores for the chair and following this many celebrities and people from Tamilnadu also donated funds for Harvard Tamil Chair without having awareness about this issue. Many raised their voice against this initiative as they feared that Harvard may distort Tamil studies as it had distorted for other indigenous studies. Eminent researcher, author and the chairman of infinity foundation, Rajiv Malhotra conducted a separate panel in the recently held Swadeshi Indology conference in Chennai to discuss this issue in detail. US based Indian scientist, Shiva Ayyadurai is showing his displeasure strongly through his tweets and one of the post in his site even says that he had stopped the Harvard Tamil chair scam but the twitter page of Harvard Tamil chair have dismissed the claims of this project getting stopped.
Tamil has a majestic history of literature and culture and is the only ancient language spoken by huge number of people in present times but the worldwide reach of Tamil is limited. This made many people to think that a chair in the prestigious Harvard University is a wise move to expand Tamil’s reach. The question is whether the Harvard Tamil chair is the right way to spread the glory of Tamil? If Harvard Tamil chair is established, one of the places of Tamil research is Harvard and this research will create knowledge about Tamil in Harvard. With the presence of huge capital in Harvard, Harvard will outdo all the native Indian Tamil universities in producing research and knowledge. When the main purpose of Harvard Tamil Chair is to spread the glory of Tamil, what is the need to have Harvard as the hub of knowledge creation?
In various universities in Tamilnadu, Tamil departments were unable to do big research on the language and its culture due to lack of funds. The past and present governments of Tamilnadu haven’t taken any measures to improve the Tamil research in the state. When the domestic universities itself doesn’t have any funds to do research on Tamil, what is the need to direct funds outside the country to Harvard without nourishing the Domestic universities for research. Tamil University in Thanjavur doesn’t have proper infrastructural facilities for faculty and research. Is having a chair in Harvard more important than improving research facilities for native universities? There is a Tamil department in Vishwa Bharati Shantiniketen, West Bengal and this also lacks funds. There are many such universities in Tamilnadu and other parts of India, where there is not enough funds for Tamil research. These universities should be funded, so that they can produce valuable research and knowledge. The glory of the language should be spread only by our native research but not by foreign research.
No one can deny that Tamil should have a wider reach in global scale and for this research should be done within our country and knowledge produced from this research should be spread outside the country but with Harvard Tamil chair, we are giving the rights to Harvard for the creation of knowledge. India should take the ownership of Tamil studies and all other Indian studies or else it may lead to misinterpretation of our culture and heritage. When western universities like Harvard took up the study of Hinduism and Sanskrit, it led to the production of distorted literature and Tamil studies cannot be exclusion from such falsification, if Harvard Tamil chair is established. China has total control over their studies and they have limitations for the foreign scholars who visit and study about China. India needs to have a complete control over our studies or else it will lead to horrendous consequences. This holds true for all native Indian studies including Tamil.
If Harvard Tamil Chair is not managed properly, it may lead to separatist literature and even the idea of Khalistan was created outside the country and was controlled by foreign forces. India should be cautious and shouldn’t lose control of our studies to foreign forces. The literature for Dravidian movement was provided by studies in USA. USA saw the Dravidian movement as a strong counter to soviet influence in India during 1950s and 1960s. Literature from Harvard Tamil chair may support the Aryan Dravidian division and can separate Tamil from pan-India culture. Lessons should be learned from past experiences. Harvard Tamil Chair is not something fresh of this kind, it should be remembered that there is a similar Tamil chair in Berkley University for 20 years. Berkley Tamil Chair didn’t benefit Tamil language and culture but instead provided separatist literature. Foreign Tamil scholar George Hart, known for his separatist views was hired as the professor of Harvard Tamil Chair.
The books Hart wrote before his professorship in Berkley Tamil Chair propagates the Dravidian ideologies and reject the pan Indian culture. A research paper by Hart interprets Ramayana as “a strange work” filled with contradictions between “Brahminical thoughts” and “Martial Valor”. The book “Breaking India” written by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan discusses about this in detail. Hence, India should learn lessons from these issues and make sure that it won’t pave way for such separatist studies.
The separatist study is seeing a new dimension in recent years. A study from Harvard says that both Aryan and Dravidians are outsiders for Indian subcontinent and only Mundas are the real inhabitants of the land. When the racial division between Aryans and Dravidians itself is disproved by genetics, western academics are coming with a new face of separatism. Harvard Tamil Chair may boast this study and can influence internal politics in India.
If Harvard Tamil Chair is established, a white man from Harvard will start to teach Tamil, will write a book before many of our talented scholars and it will become the prime source of Tamil studies because of the Harvard tag irrespective of authenticity of the research. Considering the lack of proper research on Tamil in India and the possibility of Harvard Tamil chair supporting separatism by rejecting Pan-Indian culture, Harvard Tamil Chair should be immediately stopped and the funds should be redirected to Indian Universities for the research on Tamil.
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