Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Hindu letters

At the meeting of the Board of Directors held on July 20, 2011, Siddharth Varadarajan was appointed Editor of The Hindu by a majority of 7 to 5, over the objections of N. Murali, N. Ravi, Malini Parthasarathy, Nirmala Lakshman and Nalini Krishnan. At this, N. Ravi resigned as Editor, Malini Parthasarathy as Executive Editor, Nirmala Lakshman as Joint Editor. N Murali who is the younger brother of N. Ram announced his retirement on reaching the age of 65 on August 11, 2011.  He said he had announced that he would not stay in active operations after the age of65.  He pointed out that if N. Ram had stood by his commitment made on September 25, 2009, he should have retired on May 4, 2010.

N Ravi Resignation Letter

N Murali Retirement Letter

Nirmala Lakshman Resignation Letter

Malini Parthasarathy Resignation Letter 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Hindu's battle for survival: "Madras High Court reserves order"

The high court here on Tuesday reserved its order on the petition filed by N Ram, head of The Hindu group of publications, against a Company Law Board (CLB) ruling that key resolutions approved by the board of directors and the majority shareholders on personnel and structural changes couldn’t be implemented.

The CLB has restrained the board resolution approved by shareholders on May 20 to remove the editor, N Ravi, and appoint an employee from outside the family which runs the company, Kasturi & Sons, to succeed him, among other changes.

Ram, who is chairman of the company and also editor-in-chief of The Hindu, had petitioned the HC, arguing that the CLB could not decide such matters for the organisation. This was contested by Ravi and other rivals within the family.
The matter was heard by judge Vinod K Sharma and the arguments between rival counsels went on for four hours. Counsel for Ram said the appointment of Delhi bureau chief Siddharth Varadarajan as editor in place of Ravi would be in the publication’s interest. Seven of the 12 board members had approved and so had 60 per cent of the shareholders.

Counsel for Ravi and executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, both part of the family and who would lose their editorial responsibilities under the proposed changes, contested this. They said the move breached the entire tradition and practice at the institution, and was also contrary to what management consultants and the CLB itself had recommended.

A counsel for joint editor Nirmala Lakshman, another anti-Ram contender, alleged Ram was looking for an opportunity to exit the organsiation in return for a satisfactory price.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Degree conferring photo with ill fitting cap...

When the cap did not fit....

Ignoring the mass of evidence that N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu acted as an apologist for A.Raja in the telecom licence scam, Lord Swraj Paul who himself had been indicted and suspended from the House of Lords for wrong expense claims made bold to assert that “Mr. Ram never hesitated to speak truth to power.”
The irony was not lost when Ram himself thought it fit to claim that the honorary doctorate conferred on him by Lord Swraj Paul as Chancellor of Wolverhampton University was in recognition of his “journalistic work in the cause of an open and transparent political society rid of the stench of bribes, kickbacks, and top-level political corruption.”
Was this another case of mutual backscratching? When London-based Lord Swraj Paul was exposed passing off a one room apartment in Oxfordshire as his main residence, even though he had not spent a single night there, in order to claim overnight allowances while staying in his London home, The Hindu was obliging enough to publish his defence much more prominently than the news of the wrongful action itself. The House of Lords Privileges Committee indicted Lord Swraj Paul for “wrongly claiming overnight parliamentary expenses meant for out-of-London members” and recommended his suspension for four months.  Lord Swraj Paul accepted the verdict and suspension, and resigned from the post of Deputy Speaker.
After all this, he sought to defend himself in an interview and in an Op-ed article in The Hindu.  His defence basically was that he had not been indicted for even more serious wrongdoing. The Metropolitan Police had not proceeded to lay a criminal charge against him, and the House of Lords Privileges Committee had found that he had not done it dishonestly and in bad faith but had only been negligent and irresponsible, and reduced his suspension from six months (as recommended by the Sub-committee on Lords’ Interests) to four months. He had repaid an amount of 41,982 pounds. He also offered the cultural relativist defence that because of his different cultural (Indian) background he had understood the concept of main residence differently.  He accused two members of the Sub-committee on Lords’ Interests, including its chairperson, of bias.

He never hesitated to speak truth to power: Lord Paul
Special Correspondent
Wolverhampton varsity confers honorary degree on N. Ram
University of Wolverhampton conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences on N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu here on Monday.
Conferring the honour at an elegant ceremony, Chancellor of the University Rt. Hon. Lord Swraj Paul of Marylebone, PC, said it was in recognition of Mr. Ram's distinguished achievements, both as an outstanding public intellectual and an eminent journalist.
“But, even more than that, we honour him for an attribute so rare and so needed in this contemporary world – Mr. Ram has never hesitated to speak truth to power,” Lord Paul said.
Earlier recipients of the Honorary Degree conferred by the University include the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam; the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah Brown. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley received the honour recently.
Speaking on some broad trends in higher education, Dr. Paul said it was increasingly being seen as an engine of economic development, but governments around the world were overwhelmed by the costs associated with participation. “Globally, the number of people who enrolled into higher education increased from 19 per cent in 2000 to 26 per cent in 2007.”
Referring to the “explosion of institutions” as one of the consequences of globalisation, he said higher education institutions needed to adopt business-like practices to survive in the “global education industry.”
Joint educational endeavours, Lord Paul said, would fertilise links between the vast reservoir of dynamic young people in India and their British counterparts, to the enduring benefit of both nations.
Mr. Ram said he was honoured and pleased to be a recipient of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences from a very fine centre of higher learning in the United Kingdom.
“I am specially honoured that this is a recognition of what I have endeavoured to do as a journalist over some decades and in particular of my journalistic work in the cause of an open and transparent political society rid of the stench of bribes, kickbacks, and top-level political corruption,” he said.
Era of growth
Sharing some observations on where journalism seemed to be headed in India, he said while journalism was widely believed to be in crisis across the developed world, in India and other developing countries the news media were still in an era of growth and opportunity beckoned, especially for the young.
In India, the long-term competition between the self-serving and the public service visions of journalism was on and it bred tension, confusion and, at times, conflict.
Noting that ensuring commercial viability and addressing the vital need of being accurate, informative, insightful, educative and relevant was an “extraordinarily difficult balance to strike,” Mr. Ram said: “Many of us believe there is a middle path, a golden mean that can deliver good results.”
News media needed to work out a template of editorial values and principles and a concept of social responsibility they can live up to and also live with. “Media performance is a matter that is best left to readers, audiences, universities and society to judge,” he said.
Vice-Chancellor of the University Caroline Gipps highlighted key initiatives of the varsity in collaboration with institutions in India.

The Hindu, November 8, 2010: Opinion
Inquiry panel behaved like a ‘kangaroo court,' says Lord Paul
Hasan Suroor

An interview with the Labour peer on suspension over excessive expenses claims.
Labour peer Swraj Paul has said that the House of Lords panel that recommended his suspension over excessive expenses claims acted like a “kangaroo court” and did not give him a fair hearing. “It would seem that it had already decided in advance what their verdict would be,” he told The Hindu.
Lord Paul said that during the hour-long hearing “nobody asked why I thought my claims were valid” and there were occasions when “I would have walked out but for my respect for parliamentary procedure.” There were constant “media leaks” at every stage, he added, pointing out that it was from press reports that he first got to know of the panel's recommendations.
He found two members of the panel, the Subcommittee for Lords' Conduct, including its chairperson Eliza Manningham-Buller “openly hostile.” Baroness Buller even “threatened” to resign if her recommendations were not accepted by the Privileges Committee to which Lord Paul had appealed.
The Privileges Committee, while upholding the decision to suspend him, rejected the Buller panel's finding that he “did not act in good faith” in claiming extra expenses. It said he had “not acted dishonestly or in bad faith” but had been “negligent and irresponsible”.
The allegation
Lord Paul accused the pro-Tory media, especially the Murdoch papers, of “hounding” him for political reasons. “They wanted to attack Labour party,” he observed, “and I was an easy target because of my proximity to Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minister.”
Lord Paul and two other Asian peers — Baroness Manzila Pola Uddin and Lord Amir Bhatia — were suspended last month for “wrongly claiming overnight parliamentary expenses meant for out-of-London members.” The allegation against Lord Paul was that he designated a one-room flat in Oxfordshire as his “main residence” in order to claim the overnight allowance even though he barely stayed there, and that he spent much of his time at his London home.
Lord Paul was suspended for four months, Baroness Uddin until Easter 2012, and Lord Bhatia for eight months. Lord Paul has since voluntarily resigned as Deputy Speaker of the House.
The ‘element of race'
Their suspension has sparked a controversy amid allegations of political and media bias, and even a hint of racial prejudice. A group of the House of Lords staff has alleged “institutional racism.” In a letter, seen by The Hindu, they said they overheard conversation between two officials referring to the three peers in racially “derogatory tones” and suggesting that they had “succeeded in getting them suspended.” The letter added: “We as a group were horrified as this seemed to almost be institutional racism ... One gets the impression that the Lords Finance Office has undertones of institutional racism. We are now ashamed to say that we work for the House of Lords.”
The “element of race” was also highlighted by Labour peer Lord Waheed Alli during a debate in the House. He made a pointed reference to the fact that all three peers who had been suspended were Asian.
Lord Paul, however, declined to be drawn out on this question. “I hope not,” he responded. “It would be disgrace if that has happened.” He characterised the official response to Lord Walli's comment as “pathetic.” He was clear that he had been a victim of “gross injustice.” He pointed out that while the expense claims of about other 20 peers were scrutinised they were not investigated and let off after being simply asked to give “written assurances.”
“My case alone,” he explained, “was referred to the Metropolitan Police after a campaign by the press and a Scottish MP who was opposed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. One has to assume it was politically motivated. However, the police very quickly said there was no case against me because the rules that I and my fellow members had followed when submitting expenses claims were too vague to be enforceable.”
Contribution to Britain
Lord Paul said the matter should have ended there. Instead, his case was referred to the Buller panel even though by then he had repaid £41,000 that he was said to have wrongly claimed between January 2005 and July 2006 — the only time, he said, he ever claimed any expenses during his 14 years as peer. “In fact I had repaid £14,000 more than I needed to have done. Since I had already repaid the money and the police had decided ‘there was no case against him,' why did the House of Lords think it needed further investigation?” Lord Paul questioned the interpretation of the term “main residence” saying that it was so “vague” that many members designated “all kinds of properties outside London in order to be eligible for the overnight allowance.” The fact that rules had since been changed showed that the previous regime was flawed, he added.
Lord Paul spoke emotionally about his contribution to Britain. “I have contributed more to Britain than I have taken. The biggest thing I have achieved is to make Britons realise that Indians, whether in business, politics, or the professions, belong to the Premier League rather than manual workers that they were once perceived as.”
He said his faith in the British sense of justice had been shaken but he would continue to fight.
“The battle is not over. I am not a quitter,” he declared.
The Hindu, December 6, 2010: Opinion
Setting the record straight
Lord Paul
The facts behind the House of Lords expenses case.
There has been much comment in recent days about certain events concerning me and the British House of Lords. Many of these comments have been misinformed, and facts have been distorted. The procedures and conclusions of the House of Lords committees involved have been grossly unfair. I would like to better acquaint the public at large with what has actually taken place.
Over a year ago, allegations were made in the British press that about 20 members of the House of Lords, including myself, had mis-claimed reimbursements for expenses. Although what I had claimed was well within the conventions and practices of the House at the relevant time periods, I immediately demanded an investigation by the Clerk of the Parliaments, and was prepared to make instant repayment of any claims that were questioned. The Clerk suggested a re-check of my accounting, by the staff of the House of Lords. On the basis of their findings, I immediately repaid £41,982 — an amount relating to only 18 months of the 14 years I have served in the House.
Three strange events then took place.
First: Among those whose claims were questioned was the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, who had made overnight allowance claims of £200,000. Because of the size of the claims, a careful and transparent inspection would be expected. It is not clear whether any investigation was held and, if so, how carefully it was conducted. In fact, the Lord Speaker's case was quickly cleared by the Clerk of the Parliaments, while she continued to preside over the House Committee that was investigating the claims of others.
Second: This House Committee consisting of 12 members of the House (most of whom had themselves made overnight allowance claims) arbitrarily changed the rules regarding the term “main residence” — in effect retroactively redefining the boundaries of their alleged transgression.
Third: As a result, the Lords whose reimbursement claims had been questioned were subjected to little or no investigation. They were only asked to give “written assurances” to the Clerk of the Parliaments that their claims were valid. On the basis of these personal assurances, which were not checked, they were all exonerated by the end of March 2010.
I was treated quite differently. Although I had requested the Clerk of the Parliaments to examine my claims and had voluntarily repaid £41,982 on October 28, 2009, apparently driven by a section of the press and a complaint made by a member of the House of Commons (who was noted for his hostility to then Prime Minister Gordon Brown), my case was referred to the Metropolitan Police.
On February 25, 2010, the Metropolitan Police informed me that no action would be taken. Their investigations had been concluded and discontinued.
Anyone would assume that the matter had ended there.
This, however, was not enough for the Clerk of the Parliaments. Despite my voluntary repayment and the closure of the police enquiry, the Clerk of the Parliaments on March 5, 2010 requested the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests to further investigate my case. An unusual and unnecessary delay of over three months then occurred. Nothing happened for seven weeks, and then Parliament was dissolved for the general election. Eventually, a reconvened Sub-Committee began proceedings in June 2010.
For it to do so, the Clerk sent to the Sub-Committee all the documents relating to my case — except the letter from the Metropolitan Police that had concluded that no further action was necessary. Why was this vital document withheld?
I was asked to appear before the Sub-Committee on June 17, 2010. When I did so, I was astonished at the antagonistic attitude of its two most vocal members — especially the overtly hostile conduct of one particular member. The transcript shows that in just over an hour I was subjected to 177 comments and questions: that particular individual alone made 122 (69 per cent) of them. Although his manner was prosecutorial and accusatory, no attempt was made to restrain him.
The overall atmosphere of the Sub-Committee hearing was something like a Kangaroo court. I was astounded to be asked questions like “… you regard yourself as very rich by comparison with most of mankind,” or “…. you accept that by comparison with a great majority of this world you are rich.” Later, my attempts to explain that the differences of interpretation may have been due to cultural perceptions and background were treated with almost colonial disdain.
Nobody wanted to know why I had maintained that my claims were valid according to the practices that prevailed in the House in 2005/2006.
The final published report (HL Paper 37) even contains transcripts of telephone conversations secretly recorded by the Sunday Times newspaper (taped without the knowledge of those participating) that were considered as evidence by the Sub-Committee — illegally gathered material that no court of law would admit. This is a shocking violation of human rights — especially so since recordings of my conversations showed how innocuous they were.
All this seems to strongly indicate that this Sub-Committee had decided on its verdict in advance and would go to extraordinary lengths to enact the outcome it had pre-determined.
In addition, although assurances of confidentiality were given to me by the Committees, the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Registrar for Lords' Interests, information about the proceedings and the verdicts was leaked to the media well before I was officially informed about them.
This was trial by rumour. Such information could only have come from the Sub-Committee itself, and those associated with it. I was not allowed to publicly defend myself until October 18, 2010 — a full year after the allegations were first made.
The Sub-Committee held that I had acted dishonestly and in bad faith, and recommended suspension from the House of Lords for six months.
I appealed these Sub-Committee judgments to the Privileges Committee. Then, what can only be construed as a forceful attempt to intimidate the Privileges Committee took place. In a press interview ( Daily Telegraph, October 25, 2010) the Chairman of the Sub-Committee threatened to resign if the Sub-Committee's recommendations were not accepted by the Privileges Committee. Such threats subvert the whole purpose of an appeal process and raise questions of whether other members of the Sub-Committee tried to further pressure the Privileges Committee.
The Privileges Committee rejected the Sub-Committee's conclusions.
The Privileges Committee concluded that I had not acted dishonestly or in bad faith. It determined that I had been negligent and acted in ignorance, as I had already stated many months earlier. The Privileges Committee also rejected the Sub-Committee's recommendation of six months' suspension, and reduced the period to four months.
For infractions such as negligence and ignorance, a four-month suspension seems unduly harsh. As a newspaper editorial put it: “It is a little like police picking up a motorist for driving at 35mph in a 30mph zone while turning a blind eye to others doing 45mph or more.”
Another bizarre aspect of this situation is that the House of Lords has now discontinued the procedures to which I was subjected. A new set of procedures, constructed to ensure more fairness, will replace the procedures that were applied to me. Lord Brabazon, presenting the report of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct to the House on October 21, 2010, said that past procedures “present some difficulties” and there will be no more investigations conducted under the old rules. His statements were accepted by the entire House without dissent. If the procedures of the past have had to be so quickly replaced, those who have recently been penalised by those defective procedures should not be victimised.
This entire chain of events has shaken my faith in the House of Lords as an exemplar of British justice and fair play. Have justice and fairness — the bedrock of British values — fallen victim to prejudice and hypocrisy?
I have called for a full public enquiry into the claims of all peers during the past 10 years to ascertain the merits of all claims — and to determine whether double standards of punishment have been imposed.
Because I feel so strongly about this and intend to speak out frankly and freely without the constraints of office, I have resigned as Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords.
(Swraj Paul, Chairman & Director, Caparo Group Ltd, U.K., and philanthropist, is a member of the House of Lords. He was Deputy Speaker 2008-10 and Deputy Chairman of Committees 2008-10.)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ram showing 'The Hindu' pages to Karunanidhi at his residence

The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief N.Ram proudly showing Kalaignar Karunanidhi's op-ed article on the World Tamil Conference to Karunanidhi himself. Article published on MK's 87th birthday, 3rd June 2010.

World Classical Tamil Conference – a perspective -  The Hindu dated

Although Tamil and a few other languages such as Greek, Latin and Sanskrit enjoy the status of classical language in the academic world thanks to their antiquity and rich literary heritage, Tamil is the first living language to be given the official status of a classical language.
Our sagacious leader, Arignar Anna [C.N. Annadurai], conducted the Second World Tamil Conference in Chennai in 1968, during his tenure as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, on a very grand scale with the participation of lakhs of Tamils from all over the country and abroad. The First World Tamil Conference, held in Kuala Lumpur in 1966, the Third in Paris (1970), the Fourth in Jaffna (1974), the Fifth at Madurai (1981), the Sixth again in Kuala Lumpur (1987), the Seventh in Mauritius (1989), and the Eighth in Thanjavur (1995) were, relatively speaking, on a moderate scale.
Following our success in getting the rightful status of Classical Language for Tamil declared and notified by the United Progressive Alliance government – a landmark achievement in the development of Tamil and in the restoration of its prestige and glory – succeeding in our efforts to establish the Central Institute of Classical Tamil in Chennai, and facilitating the award of the President's ‘Kuralpeeda Award' and ‘Tholkappiar Award' on nationally and internationally renowned Tamil scholars, we thought it fit to conduct the first World Classical Tamil Conference. We decided to hold it for five days from the 23rd to the 27th of June 2010 at Coimbatore in a grand manner.

Demand for classical status

For more than 150 years, Tamil scholars and those conscious of their Tamil heritage have been demanding that the classical character of Tamil be recognised. They claimed that Tamil has rich and hoary literary and grammatical traditions, its own script system, and an unbroken lengthy history. In addition, the language has continuously been a spoken language at least for more than 2,000 years in Tamil Nadu. It has essentially kept its age-old character intact, even though it is an effective modern language.
The demand for classical status arose in the context of the British Indian administration treating Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic as classical languages and making special provisions and support mechanisms for the learning and development of these languages. The demand arose also in the context of the strong Tamil tradition and tendency, even now easily discernible, to maintain its own distinct character through various linguistic, literary, religious, anthropological, sociological, cultural, and architectural means and contributions.
In recent years, George Hart, Professor of Tamil Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, reiterated with sound arguments the demand that Tamil should be declared or recognised as a classical language. He wrote in 2000: “First, Tamil is of considerable antiquity. Second, Tamil constitutes the only literary tradition indigenous to India that is not derived from Sanskrit. Third, the quality of classical Tamil literature is such that it is fit to stand beside the great literatures of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Persian and Arabic.”
Dr. Robert Caldwell (1814-1891) established beyond the pale of controversy the reality of the Dravidian family of languages and the high antiquity of Tamil. According to him, it is the most highly cultivated of all Dravidian idioms; it can dispense with its Sanskrit altogether, if need be, and not only stand alone but also flourish without its aid.
Caldwell's study provided the base for the formation of the Pure Tamil Movement, founded by the great Tamil savant, Parithimaal Kalaignar (V.G. Suryanarayana Sastri), a Professor of Tamil at the Madras Christian College. He first gave the clarion call to recognise Tamil as a classical language. His view was further nurtured by the renowned scholars, Maraimalai Adigal (1876-1950) and Devaneya Paavanar, who opined that Tamil was the primary classical language of the world.
In 1918, the Saiva Siddhanta Samajam passed a resolution demanding that the University of Madras grant classical language status to Tamil. This was done at the initiative of Maraimalai Adigal, Professor of Tamil at the Madras Christian College, and a proponent of the Pure Tamil Movement, whose original name was Vedachalam. Two years later, the Thanjavur-based Karanthai Tamil Sangam petitioned the university to raise the status issue with the provincial government. After that, not much was heard of the demand for a long time.
The 1970s again saw a champion of the cause in Manavai Mustafa, then Editor of UNESCO Courier (Tamil). But he did not have much organisational backing. Since 1975 he has been writing consistently in newspapers and magazines pressing the demand. Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran asked him to send a petition detailing how Tamil qualified to claim the status.
Mustafa said it took him two years to collect the necessary data, which included the features a language should have to qualify for classical status. He presented a petition to the Chief Minister in 1982, but no action was taken. Years later, he said, he learnt that the petition was rejected by a top government official on the ground that if Tamil was given the status on a par with Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit, which are no more spoken languages, Tamil would also be considered a `dead' language.

Movement gains momentum

The movement to classify Tamil as a classical language gained momentum about ten years ago when major political parties took up the issue. A few months before the 1996 general elections, the DMK adopted a resolution at its Tiruchi conference demanding that Tamil be made one of the official languages of the Union government. The demand was also included in the DMK's manifesto for the Assembly elections held along with the general elections.
In 1998, when the BJP captured power at the Centre, many academics felt that the BJP-led government, which declared 1999 as Sanskrit Year and caused a flow of funds to universities and Sanskrit organisations, was not keen on giving classical status to Tamil. The DMK, as a constituent in the government, pressed Tamil's case. It organised hunger strikes and demonstrations and thousands of people courted arrest.
The DMK conference at Villupuram also adopted a resolution to that effect. Its election manifesto for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections stated: “The DMK will continue to insist on the declaration of Tamil as a Classical Language as it would enable the allocation of funds for Tamil research by the Central government and would also facilitate Tamil research in various universities in India and abroad.”
The DMK-led alliance swept the polls and the DMK became an important constituent of the UPA government formed at the Centre. We could get this demand included in the National Common Minimum Programme. In the very first joint session of Parliament in June 2004, the declaration of Tamil as a Classical Language by President APJ Abdul Kalam, a Tamil scholar himself, was not just symbolic. It was a victory for Indian democracy and the federal polity as well.
On September 17, 2004, Information and Broadcasting Minister S. Jaipal Reddy announced that the government's decision to accord classical language status was taken on the recommendation of an Expert Committee of the Sahitya Akademi that a category of “classical languages” be created. Since Tamil fulfilled the set of criteria the Committee had evolved, it won the honour of being the first to get into this prestigious category. Although Tamil and a few other languages such as Greek, Latin and Sanskrit enjoy the status of classical language in the academic world thanks to their antiquity and rich literary heritage, Tamil is the first living language to be given the official status of a classical language.
On October 12, 2004, the UPA government issued a notification declaring Tamil as a classical language. Thus Tamil won the distinction of being the first classical language declared by the independent Government of India.
I expressed my overwhelming feeling of joy at the DMK conference in Tiruchi on March 5, 2006, in the presence of Congress president Thirumathi Sonia Gandhi. I said the letter she wrote to me about the decision was not just a letter but an ageless copperplate. She had stated in her letter of November 8, 2005: “Dear Thiru Karunanidhiji, I have received your letter of 28th October. I am glad that all the formalities for declaring Tamil as a Classical Language have now been completed. This is an achievement for all the constituents of the UPA Government, but particular credit goes to you and your Party. With Regards, Yours sincerely, Sonia Gandhi.”
The century-old dream of Tamils turned true and the first part of the history of classical language came to an end. I wrote a series of epistles to my party brethren under the heading ‘Some pages in the history of Classical Language' in our party organ Murasoli, explaining the historical development of the demand for classical status for Tamil and the stalwarts and scholars who contributed to it.

Significance of conference logo

The image of Thiruvalluvar's statue in Kanyakumari, being lashed by waves caused by the tsunami and encircled by seven icons from the Indus Valley Civilisation, forms part of the logo of the World Classical Tamil Conference. The logo emphasises the ideal of humankind, that it should always be free of narrow walls of race, creed, and caste. The message is found in a palm leaf manuscript at the bottom of the statue. This concept (“pirapokkum ella uyirkkum” = All living humans are one in circumstances of birth) has been declared to be the motto of the meet. The Indus Valley Civilisation icons, found in the logo, symbolise the Dravidian civilisation, which is regarded as the most ancient civilisation of the world. The number of icons stresses the importance of ‘seven' in the lives of Tamils.

Theme song

I wrote the theme song for the Conference, which has been set to tune by Oscar and Grammy Award winner A.R. Rahman. The DVD was made by leading film director Gautham Menon.
The World Classical Tamil Conference will be inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil in the forenoon of June 23, 2010. The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Thiru Surjit Singh Barnala, and scholars like Professor George Hart, Dr. V.C. Kulandaisamy, and Dr.K. Sivathamby will participate in the inaugural function, which I will preside over.
The “Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award” will be presented to the world renowned Indologist, Dr. Asko Parpola of Finland, for his magnum opus, Deciphering the Indus Script (1994), proposing Dravidian as the language of the Indus Script, close to old Tamil. This Award has been instituted by the Central Institute of Classical Tamil making use of the endowment created by me from my personal contribution of Rs.1 crore.

Academic sessions

The Conference will feature comprehensive academic sessions in which research papers in Tamil language, literature, culture, and so on will be presented by scholars and researchers. As many as 1,020 delegates from 49 countries have registered for participation at the conference. They will present their papers on various subjects under 55 titles.

General sessions for the public

The general sessions will have various literary programmes to benefit and attract the public. The public will get an opportunity to listen to presentations on classical Tamil in the form of various programmes like literary speeches, poetry sessions, and scholarly debates by renowned personalities. We expect thousands of people to attend these sessions. Further, dance operas, music performances, and so on will be organised in the evenings to showcase Tamil culture to the delegates and the general public.

Exhibition on Classical Tamil

A grand exhibition is being organised for the World Classical Tamil Conference. There will be exhibits depicting Tamil arts, culture, language, literature, and the history of Tamil. The exhibition will present objects of pottery, figurines, bricks, and seals, bathtubs etc., which were excavated from the Indus Valley apart from Chola bronzes, stone inscriptions, and statues from various ages.

Pageantry procession

A massive pageantry procession will be organised on June 23, the day of inauguration. It will cover 9 km. from VOC grounds in the heart of the city of Coimbatore to CODISSIA grounds, the venue of the Conference. The procession will have 40 floats displaying paintings and models of sculptures depicting the glory of Tamil culture. The floats will portray rare and resplendent scenes from the ancient Sangam classics and reflect the richness of the Tamil people and their culture. What is more, 40 cultural troupes consisting of 2,000 artistes will participate in the procession.

Tamil Internet Conference

Another unique aspect will be the Tamil Internet Conference 2010, which the Government of Tamil Nadu decided to hold alongside the first World Classical Tamil Conference. The objectives of the former are to showcase the development of Tamil Internet up to the present time and to identify the steps needed to increase the use of the Tamil language on the Internet; to establish a wide network between Tamil literary scholars and Tamil Internet developers; and to motivate the younger generation to use Tamil on the Internet.
We expect about 350 special invitees, speakers, delegates, and experts from 15 countries to participate in the Tamil Internet Conference. A “Tamil Computing Internet Exhibition” is being organised as an interactive module to expose and explain the latest developments and technology in Tamil Internet to common folk.
Much thought and consultation has gone into formulating the programmes of this specialised Conference. I am confident it will take Tamil to the 21st Century, based on its requirements and having in mind the rapid developments in science and technology, information technology, linguistics, anthropology, epigraphy, and other fields of knowledge.