THE WORLD OF ONLINE IDENTITY POLITICS

If you search online for Dravidian culture you would most probably be directed to web pages singing praise of Tamil Eelam Or if you looked into the history of Malappuram district it would feel more like an Arab enclave in Malabar with very little reference to its real past. The online world is a constant battle field where groups try and appropriate established identities to suite their agenda so that their own existence could be justified.

Take for example the use of “Namasthe” in Malayalam social media. Here certain sections (Hindu Right wing) has appropriated it for all forms of personal appreciation. It is very common to see Namasthe being written below a family picture or a wedding album. You cannot blame them for using it everywhere as most Indian languages lack English equivalents, but using a greeting to assert your religious identity is pathetic to say the least. This is also the same with “jai Sreeram”. As Muslim right wing of Kerala became more Arabianised and started using Arab culture as the marker of religiosity, the Hindu right wing adopted North Indian war cry to Malayalam dictionary , legitimising its use.

South India and Dravidian culture has now become synonymous with Tamil Nadu. This is a case of cultural appropriation just for political gains. Other Dravidian speakers are often chastised for being Aryan hybrids or not being Dravidian enough. Tamil is declared the mother of all southern languages and most of these online bots wants us to bow down to them like the Hindi chauvinists wants the rest of the country to .This effort to legitimise the Tamil claim to hegemony is nothing short of Nazi claim of pure race , but it is paying huge dividends in Tamilnadu . This online identity pogrom has made the fringe periyarist ideology the sole voice of all of south India .

If you scroll Wikipedia for places in Malappuram , the history section would actually perplex you. These pages are in stark contrast to the ones about places in the near by Palakkad district which are may be a few kilometres apart. Take Melattur in Malappuram and Alanallur in Palakkad. Melattur it seems is where the Arabs settlers intermarried with local women becoming son in laws(Mappillas) [Which actually took place along the coast , While Islam spread inland through missionaries] while Alanallur and Mannarkkad seems to be more in tune with their valluvanadan past . This religious interpolation of history is dangerous as your heritage is washed away in a single stroke making you anchor less. In the long run it could make Malappuram a new Pakistan where the history starts with Mohammed Bin Qasim.

Vested interests retelling history for their ends is not new. The communist intelligentsia has done it in the past and Hindutva brigade is at it now. But with democratisation of knowledge through internet , fake narratives are being peddled at a faster rate than before with a wider reach. This could have deep polarising effect on how people see themselves and their histories.