Tamil Nadu is seen by many as a land of paradox. Some of the hoariest, beautiful and spiritually fulfilling temples are in this state. Some of these temples date back to at least a thousand years. This is also the place, which has the Dravidian forces, the self-proclaimed rationalists, in power for over 50 years now. Its popularity among the masses cannot be gainsaid.

While the rise of extreme Hindutva politics is rightly criticised in the media, the dirty tricks of the Tamil "rationalists" have not been called out by the liberal gang, which of course points to the question whether they are actually liberals or not. But that is an exercise for another day.

The focus is now firmly on the "rationalists" in Tamil Nadu. That they have to be placed between a pair of inverted commas in itself conveys their dubious status. Rationalism, in general, is another name for scientific temper. The word in itself it can be a spiritual quest to understand life and its myriad forces. It is also about questioning senseless shibboleths and stupid superstitions of the land.

But most Tamil "rationalists" don't seem to have such ennobling ideas about them. Their "rationalism" is just a smoke-screen for their bigotry for Hindus and Hinduism. 

Take for instance, a video clip that has now gone viral on social media platforms. Its provenance is not exactly known, but a bunch of people, all professing faith in Periyarism, are seen standing in a line on a street. They trot out their usual spiel that who believe in God are barbarians. They also shove in a couple of lines against Brahmanism. And then they smash to smithereens a Lord Ganesha idol that one of them had been carrying. They also kick the shards of the broken idol.

It can either be taken as an abrasive act of iconoclasm or plain hurting of religious sentiments of Hindus. It is difficult to give the bunch of Dravidian lumpens, a word that is used here advisedly, the benefit of the doubt here because their brand of "rationalism" never questions any other religion. Also, when they choose to break the Ganesha idol on the day of celebration, it can be construed only as a provocative antic. It is just their detestation for Hinduism that manifests here. 

The thing is you can hate religion. Many a strife in our lives have their genesis in religion. But when you target only one religion with a hidden agenda, you can't call yourselves "rationalists". Rationalism, actually, is a higher calling.

Dravida Kazhagam's closest political sibling, the DMK, prides itself in being a rational outfit. But what it exhibits is just old-fashioned hatred for Hinduism. It is a strange (and silly) tradition in Tamil Nadu for political parties and politicians to greet people during festivals and celebratory days. The DMK eschews putting out such greetings during Hindu religious festival days, but its 'rationalism' does not preclude it from extending greetings on, say, Christmas or Bakrid even though they too are  religious festivals.

And now newly-minted self-anointed activists in Tamil Nadu like Thirumurugan Gandhi are further muddying the already troubled waters. Their campaigns against Tamils and Hindus are different. Their line of argument is Hinduism does not belong to Tamil Nadu. It's outsiders' religion that has taken root in Tamil Nadu.

Even if one wants to cerebrally engage with this line of argument, one is immediately put off by the fact that the same Thirumurugan Gandhi has no qualms over Abrahamic religions that even more clearly came from outside.

As pointed out, what is happening in Tamil Nadu is not rationalism as an intellectual pursuit. It is just vile hatred of single religion for dubious and made-up reasons.

Religion can be problematic. In a robust democracy, religion, like everything should be questioned, and can be ridiculed at. But questioning people's belief is entirely different. For many people, faith in their God is intrinsic to their being. It is their raison d'etre. 

To mock that is chauvinism that is as mean-spirited as homophobia. Pity such a charade passes for rationalism in Tamil Nadu these days.