Saturday, 8 June 2013

Psychology, Stalin and Surnames

Psychology, Stalin and Surname may seem unrelated to the untrained eye (pun intended, for it's me putting the funda and not you, the reader ). 

But they do share some common grounds and here am starting off by showcasing 3 pictures of great importance in the World History. 

Am sure, you would have guessed the commonality , with the last being the iconic image of the century, Pulling down of Berlin Wall. 

So here are the answers. The last was pulling down of Berlin Wall .The second image is the Head of Statue of Stalin on the streets of Budapest just after the October Revolution of 1950's in Hungary. And the first is pulling down of Statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Interestingly the first operation is categorized as PSYOPS (Psychological Operations (United States) ) 

Yes indeed, these images and actions have transformed a whole generation for they questioned or shattered the prevailing ideologies or beliefs or conditioning that a population had received.

Now coming back to the surname problem, Government of Tamil Nadu ( A state in India ) has a clearly defined policy of discouraging usage of surnames in names of roads, streets and public utilities. In fact there are three generation of people from 1950's who stayed away from having a surname in their name. And thus now a population of nearly 70 million has done away with the prevailing practice of having surnames. 

You may ask, who is going to benefit, by removing surnames from everything that roads, streets etc. The answer is the Society itself. Here let me explain , with a bit of History.

Dravidian parties, which rose during 1940's were of opinion that having caste based and social status based surnames are a vestige of the past and hence were hell bent on removing that practice, for it propagated discrimination. This action was part of the empowerment of Backward castes which had lesser opportunities in Education and work due to the discrimination which was meted out. 

They questioned the then existing set up of top down control of society by elite set of people , used this plank to forward social equality and to mobilize masses for their cause from 1940's. They had Aryan - Dravidian theory in their hand to elicit empathy among the masses who were anguished by the caste system which propagated discrimination and conditioned people mentally about their abilities to empower themselves.

So when they came to power in 1960's , a mandate was passed to remove surnames from roads/Streets and Public Utilities. In fact they went a step ahead and discouraged use of surnames in Names too , for in Tamil Nadu, Surnames are closely linked to the Caste they belong to. 

You may ask, what's the use of such an action on part of government. My view is people get conditioned and may develop a sort of complex when they see names with surnames for public utilities. And with most of the utilities named after people from economically and educationally forward set of people, it may impede people imagination by thinking that only people of certain set can reach hallowed status. It also eliminates chest thumping by people who claim superior status just because they inherit a certain surname. 

So you can call this action as a defiance of established authority. It is similar to bringing down Stalin statues in Communist states once USSR was broken down. Similar to bringing down Berlin Wall. Though a simple act of demolition , it has a huge psychological significance.

Understanding of  socio-economic situation in Tamil Nadu during  pre-independence era and post Dravidian parties take over would be helpful in appreciating the impact of this action.

And in  villages of Tamil Nadu, every major caste have their own street. So to eliminate that practice which promotes social stratification, such an action was needed in first place. Elimination of century old habits needs much time and it certainly needs actions like these to start a churn.

So in short, you can call this action as a Psychological Operation or Psychological Operations (United States) ( as in terminologies of U.S. ) to question the prevailing mentality , usher confidence and bring about a society of Equality and Social Justice.


  1. I lik d idea behind d comparisons...
    bachans, sinhas, rathores..
    devar hav nthn to do wid d street names n thr honor.. every smal stone paves d way for d success of d path!

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