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Indian PM Modi praises ‘extremely inspiring’ Thirukkural

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extolled the virtues of the classical Tamil literary and philosophical text Thirukkural in a tweet on Thursday.

In a trio of tweets in English and Tamil, the Hindu-nationalist leader heaped praise on the wisdom of Thiruvalluvar, the saint who authored the entire corpus of 1,330 pithy moral precepts, and said he “hoped”  youngsters across India would read the text.

The tweet in English reads,

“The Tirukkural is extremely inspiring. It is a treasure of rich thoughts, noble ideals and great motivation.”

“The words of respected Thiruvalluvar have the power to spread hope and brightness. I hope more youngsters across India read it!”

The prime minister’s tweet was also accompanied by a fawning essay on a Tamil magazine which gushed about the Gujarati-speaking leader’s ability to “recite the Thirukkural from memory”.

This tweet is the latest in a string of occasions when the prime minister has demonstrated his penchant for quoting the ancient text. Earlier this month, on the morrow of a bloody scrimmage between the Indian army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China in the Ladakh region, he visited the area and quoted a couplet by Thiruvalluvar on the values of an efficient army as he addressed the soldiers.

However, this move is being seen as an attempt to appropriate the legacy of Thiruvalluvar from the Tamils and portray him as a Hindu sage.

Last year, the Tamil Nadu state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) provoked the wrath of Tamils by releasing an image of Thiruvalluvar covered in a saffron piece of cloth (the colour being a totem of Hindu supremacy) in contrast to the secular white he has always been depicted in.

The Thirukkural is only one of several other symbols and figures that the Indian state’s truculent Hindu-nationalists have tried to arrogate to themselves. Incidents of busts and statues of Periyar, the father of the Dravidian movement, being vandalised by BJP operatives have become commonplace. Indeed whilst Modi praised the Thirukkural, reports indicate that chapters on Periyar, the Chola king Rajaraja Cholan and the Sangam text Silappathikaram have been removed from the textbooks of the Central Board of Secondary Education so as to reduce the ‘burden of students’ studying during the coronavirus pandemic.

And whilst Modi has praised the Tamil language and culture, Eelam Tamil refugees who have sought asylum and have been residing in India for decades were still not considered for an offer of citizenship in the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019.

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