After the tryst with destiny on August 15th 1947 Independent India embarked on it’s historic journey. In what was then the Southern state of Madras the “double-barreled” Dravidian movement comprising the Dravida Kazhagham (DK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) commenced it’s own march towards the goal of Dravida Naadu.
All smiles: Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister, K. Kamaraj, Congress leader, and C.N. Annadurai, Chief Minister, at Madras Harbour prior to the Prime Minister’s departure for the Andamans on February 3, 1968-pic: The Hindu
Initially both the DK and DMK focused more on social reform rather than political emancipation from New Delhi. Both remained steadfastly opposed to Hindi imposition, North Indian domination and Brahmin supremacy.
As time progressed it became apparent that an unplanned division of labour was emerging. The DK spurned participatory democracy and relied more and more on extra-Parliamentary agitational politics. The DK priority was the re-structuring of society through socio-cultural reform.
The DMK also espoused these goals but the emphasis was more on reform through political means. The DMK leader CN Annadurai known popularly as “Anna” (elder brother) was veering around to the view that the DMK policies could be implemented from the inside by capturing state power rather than “agit-prop” from outside.
Though the DK and DMK were of the view that a Dravidian state was most desirable there were practical difficulties. Chief among them was the fact that the majority of Tamils in the state were not enamoured of secession. Another problem of equal dimension was the total apathy and even antipathy of the other non-Tamil Dravidian ethnicities towards the Dravida Naadu ideal.
While the DK and DMK strove together to keep the flames of Dravida Naadu flickering new developments in “Free India” began changing the political landscape.
Tamils were the single largest ethnic group in the Madras state of that time. But the Telugu speaking people were a close second. They were not very happy to play second fiddle to Tamils within Madras state. The cry for a separate Telugu state being carved out of Madras state was raised.
There were also Telugu speaking people in the princely state of Hyderabad ruled by the Nizam. Hyderabad Nizam had resisted being absorbed into the Indian union and “Iron man” Sardar Vallabhai Patel had to send in the armed forces to annex it.
With this annexation the numerical strength of Telugu people in the Indian union increased. Telugu people in the Telengana regions of the erstwhile Hydrebad princely state along with those in the northern Telugu districts of Madras state made up a population slightly larger than the Tamils themselves.
So Telugu nationalism grew. The demand was for a greater Telugu state comprising both segments. The new state within the Indian union was to be called Andhra Pradesh. Telugu nationalists began agitating for Andhra Pradesh and also wanted the Madras city to be the new capital. “Madras manadhe” (madras is ours) was the Telugu cry.
The demand for Madras by Telugu nationalists was resented by Tamils of Madras state. The “commonality” of Dravidian affinity was shattered by the Telugu-Tamil rivalry. The Telugu demand for Andhra Pradesh increased momentum when a Telugu political leader Potti Sree Ramulu went on a fast unto death and died after 66 days.
The Indian government of Jawarhalal Nehru gave in to the demand and created the new state of Andhra Pradesh in 1953. It consisted of 16 Telugu-majority districts in the north of Madras state. Telengana regions of Hyderabad were not included. Madras city too remained within the old Madras state.
Nehru being an enlightened leader saw that linguistic nationalism within Indian borders could tear the fabric apart unless it was contained through appropriate adjustments. He decided to re-structure Indian states on a linguistic basis.
Nehru appointed the States Reorganization Commission in December 1953 under Justice Fazal Ali to recommend how states should be formed on linguistic lines. The Home minister Govind Ballabh Pant oversaw the commission’s functions. The Fazal Ali commission submitted a report in 1955 with recommendations. On the basis of that report, Nehru got the States Reorganization Act of 1956 passed. It came into effect from Nov 1st 1956.
Madras state out of which the new Andhra Pradesh had been carved out suffered further truncation as a result of state re-organization. The Malayalam speaking Malabar districts were absorbed into the new Kerala state. The Tulu speaking regions were incorporated with the new Mysore state (now Karnataka). The residual Madras state was now preponderantly Tamil.
In a single, decisive move the territorial basis for a Dravida Naadu had been undermined. With the Telugu, Malayalee and Kannada including Tulu ethnicities having states of their own the demand for the erstwhile Madras state becoming an independent Dravida Naadu had lost its validity and power.
Furthermore cracks and fissures within the Dravidian communities were clearly visible. There was much conflict among the states-in-formation over the borders. Each demanded greater real estate. This bickering further exposed the Dravidian myth.
This inter-state strife caused much unease among the ruling Congress as well as the Dravidian parties. The Congress stood for an all-embracing Pan-Indian identity and this fighting for territory on the basis of linguistic states was frowned upon. The Dravidian movements espousing a greater Dravidian homeland was embarrassed by this intra-Dravidian competition.
[Ma. Po. Si]
It was left to a veteran Congress stalwart and freedom fighter MP Sivagnanam to take up the cause of Tamils. “Ma. Po. Si” as Sivagnanam was known started a movement to protect the territory of Madras state. He was expelled from the Congress for his “parochial” politics. Sivagnanam formed the “Thamizharasu Kazhagham” (Tamil state Association).
Malayalam speakers wanted the Kanniyakumari district bordering the “new” Kerala; Telugu speakers wanted Madras city and the Thiruthani area. Kannada speakers wanted Hosur in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. Sivagnanam spearheaded political resistance to these moves.
At the same time he led the agitation for some other border areas to be merged with Madras state. The Tiruppathy area in Andhra Pradesh, The Kolar area of Karnataka and Devikulam-Peermedhu areas of Kerala were all claimed by Sivagnanam as being integral to the “Tamil” state of Madras.
“Maposi” did not succeed in getting the territory he asked for but the movement claimed success in protecting the Kanniyakumari district, Madras city, Thiruthani and Hosur. Sivagnanam upstaged the Congress and Dravidian parties in preserving the territory of the Tamils in Madras state. He was dubbed “Ellaik Kaavalar” (guardian of the borders).
The Dravida Naadu for Dravidians demand suffered a massive setback due to state re-organization. No longer was it possible to demand a Dravidian state for all the Dravidian linguistic nationalities. On the other hand the Madras state was now predominantly Tamil and therefore more susceptible to Tamil or ultra-Tamil nationalism.
The plain speaking Periyaar was the first to acknowledge the changed situation. When asked “What constitutes Dravida Naadu now?” by the press, Periyaar replied bluntly “Whatever that remains of the old Madras state is the new Dravida Naadu now.”
Perceiving the rise of Tamil as opposed to Dravidian nationalism in Madras state the Dravida patriarch now began talking of a separate Tamil Nadu state. The DK changed its stance gradually to “Thamizh Naadu Thamizharukke” (Tamil Nadu for Tamils) from the earlier Dravida Naadu for Dravidar. The shift was illustrated vividly when the party newspaper “Viduthalai” (liberation) altered its masthead to Tamil Naadu from Dravida Naadu.
Annadurai however was not so willing to jettison the Dravida Naadu demand. He too realized that the DMK had no choice other than to do politics among the Tamils of Madras state. But he still paid lip service to Dravida Naadu. Annadurai argued that the four South Indian states should secede from India and then merge together as a Dravida Confederation.
If the state re-organization undermined the basis of Dravidian politics another event brought about significant de-valuation of other linguistic and caste based grievances. This was the elevation of a common Tamil man Kumaraswamy Kamaraj known as Kamarajar as chief minister of Madras state.
Kamarajar belonged to the socially backward , commercially influential Nadar caste. He had not studied beyond the 6th standard and lacked proficiency in English. He came from a poor family background and was not elitist like his predecessors.
Kamarajar had spent nine years in British jails during the freedom struggle. He was a disciple of Satyamurthy with whom Rajagopalachari alias Rajaji clashed frequently in Madras state congress matters. Kamarajar was a smart organizer and had a grip of the Congress party machinery in his capacity as state party Secretary.
After serving as Governor-General, Home minister and minister without portfolio in the Nehru cabinet, Rajaji had parachuted into Madras state in 1952 by becoming the Congress chief minister. Rajaji did not contest elections but was appointed to the upper house of the state as a legislative councilor.
It was Rajaji as chief minister of Madras Presidency who had introduced Hindi in schools as a compulsory subject in 1938 thereby triggering off massive protests. In 1953 he introduced a controversial scheme that had the bulk of Tamils protesting vehemently.
Rajaji intended to make children learn a vocational skill in order to be easily employable. Theoretically the concept was good but practically it was a disaster due to the nomenclature and envisaged implementation. Moreover it was pushed through by Rajaji without the approval of the party or legislators.
Rajaji called the scheme “Kulathozhil Kalvith thittam” (hereditary education scheme). It was to be implemented in rural areas first. According to this children would not study in the afternoon. Instead they would apprentice with their parents and learn the traditional occupation skills. School teachers would monitor their progress. Rajaji also announced that 6000 rural schools would be closed down.
The excreta struck the oscillator. All hell broke loose. A Brahmin chief minister had introduced an educational scheme that aimed at perpetuating caste distinctions on a permanent basis. If children were to follow their parents then the caste structure based on traditional occupation would continue with the Brahmins remaining at the Apex.
Rajaji’s short-sighted move was like Manna from heaven to the Dravidian parties. The DK organized state wide protests and began breaking idols of Lord Ganesh. The DMK commenced a “Mummunaip Porattam” (Tri-pronged campaign)with three demands. A repeal of the caste-based educational scheme, An apology from the prime minister for insulting Dravidian leaders and a change of name from Dalmiapuram to Kallakkudi.
But there was trouble within Congress rank and file. Kamaraj always a man of the masses called the scheme “paithiyakkaara thittam” (insane plan). But Rajaji was adamant and refused to give up. Kamaraj got Congress MLA’s to pass a resolution condemning the scheme while expressing confidence in Rajaji.
But Rajaji refused to budge. The Congress tradition those days was for the chief minister to be elected as chief of party legislators each year. With party elections coming up in early 1954 Rajaji resigned the chief minister post and put up C. Subramaniam (CS)as candidate for party legislature head. CS, a Rajaji loyalist was the minister in charge of education and had introduced the hereditary education scheme at the behest of his chief.
What Rajaji described as a latter-day “Chanakya” was trying to do was to make his loyalist CS as party leader first and chief minister next. Kamaraj was forced to throw his hat in the ring to counter Rajaji. State Congress legislators met on March 31st 1954 to elect the new leader. Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi was present as observer. Kamaraj with 93 votes defeated Subramaniam who had 41 votes. On April 13th Kamraraj became Congress chief minister.
The Congress image of upper caste, elitist leaders was transformed overnight. The Dravidian movement was deprived of its favourite bogey . There was no way that Kamaraj could be attacked on caste or caste grounds. Upon becoming chief minister Kamaraj withdrew the obnoxious hereditary education scheme.
He also contested the by-election in Kudiaatham. In an interesting U-turn the Dravidian patriarch supported the leader of the Congress. Periyaar called Kamaraj “Pachchaith Thamizhan” or raw Tamil. The DMK also supported Kamaraj.
Kamaraj known for his administrative efficiency enacted several measures at a rapid pace to uplift the Madras state and emancipate the down-trodden masses. His tenure from 1954-1963 is hailed as the “Potkaalam” or golden era of the state. By empowering the poorer sections of society and promoting the use of Tamil, Kamaraj began the process of redressing grievances exploited by the Dravidian movement to make a case for secessionism.
Education-wise Kamarajar opened up nearly 14,000 new primary schools. Every village with a radius of one mile or more than 350 people had a school. The number of high shools was increased from 650 to 2200. The high school student number went up from 386,000 to 1.3 million.
In order to encourage student attendance Kamaraj introduced a free non-day meals scheme through which 1.6 million students benefited. Free school uniforms were provided. Children from poor families receiving an annual income below 1500 rupees per annum were given free education. School teachers were given pensions and provident fund benefits. During Kamaraj’s rule the percentage of school going children increased from 44 % to 76%.
Medical, Engineering, Agricultutal and Technical institutions of higher learning proliferated. A rural electrification scheme was implemented successfully. Land reform was brought in with a ceiling of 30 hectares . Irrigation schemes increased the area of cultivable lands. High yielding crops were encouraged. Industrial sector made vast strides.
Unlike the DMK which thunders frequently about its commitment and devotion to the Tamil language, Kamaraj seldom talks emotionally of Tamil. In any event he was a man of few words. But in his own, quiet way Kamaraj enacted many measures to empower Tamil.
The Congress under Kamaraj in 1956 made Tamil the official or administrative language of the state. It was the Kamaraj-led Congress that submitted a budget in the Tamil language for the first time. Tamil as a medium of instruction was expanded to university level. Glossaries in Tamil for all subjects were compiled. An encyclopedia in Tamil was published the first of its kind in India.
Kamaraj also introduced the reservation scheme in higher education and government employment. This ensured greater opportunities for the caste groups described as non-forward, backward and scheduled. The forward caste domination in educational and employment spheres was reduced.
The reservation scheme was hailed by Periyaar as he saw that Brahmin ascendancy would be gradually curtailed and the so-called lower castes would gain more benefits. T he Madras state was making significant strides and the poorer sections of society were getting empowered slowly. The Tamil language was also receiving its due place in the state.
Thanks to Kamaraj it appeared that caste domination could be removed within the Indian union. Socially oppressed caste groups could be emancipated within the Indian union. Poorer sections of society could be uplifted economically within the Indian union. Inequalities could decrease and equality of opportunity increase within the Indian union. Tamil language could be restored to its rightful position within the Indian union.
All this meant that the grievances of the people exploited by the Dravidian movement were becoming less intense. Ideas can only be defeated by superior ideas. The secessionist idea of Dravida Naadu/Tamil Nadu was being overcome by the idea of emancipation and equality within an undivided India. The underlying grievances highlighted by the secessionists were being done away with. Nevertheless they did not vanish overnight.
With Kamaraj implementing many projects close to Periyaar’s heart the DK began reducing its opposition to Congress rule. Gradually Periyaar moved closer and closer to the Congress. The DK began losing its position within the Dravidian school of thought. While Periyarr did not deviate from his policies in theory the DK in practice moved away from hard, confrontational politics.
The DK concentrated on countering what it termed as cultural hegemony of the Aryan north. To counter the north Indian festival “Ram Leela” where Lord Rama an “Aryan” was extolled Periyaar started the “Ravana Leela” where the “Dravidian” king of Lanka was eulogized. Periyaar was now turning into a “nuisance” from a vibrant political force.
But the pragmatic Annadurai had other ideas. Notwithstanding the Kamaraj effect the DMK leader felt that it was time for the DMK to enter electoral politics. While Periyaar expressed disdain for elections and kept the DK out of such contests , Annadurai began leading his party into the electoral arena.
In 1952 the DMK had not contested elections but extended support to parties supporting the Dravida Naadu cause. The Vanniyar community was represented then by the Commonweal party led by Manickavelar and the Toilers party of SS Ramasamy. The former had clout in North Arcot and the latter in South Arcot districts. Both signed a pledge before polls to get DMK support but shifted stance later and joined the Congress.
Annadurai set the stage carefully for the DMK’s entry into electoral politics. The DMK’s 2nd state convention was held in May 1956. The issue of contesting the 1957 elections was raised. An internal opinion poll was taken to decide the issue. Those who supported contesting had to put their votes in a red box. Those opposing in a black box. (DMK party colours were red and black).
More than 60,000 DMK members voted. Those who supported contesting elections numbered 56,942.Those opposing umbered 4203. With such a sweeping result the DMK contested the elections to both the Madras legislative assembly and Lok Sabha central parliament. The DMK got fifteen seats in the legislative assembly and two seats in Parliament.
In what was clearly a policy contradiction , Periyaar and the DK campaigned for Kamaraj and the Congress in the polls. So great was Periyaar’s distaste for his ex-disciple that Periyaar personally focused on Kanchipuram where Annadurai contested. Despite Periyaar’s active support for Congress candidate Dr. Sreenivasan, Annadurai triumphed. Both the DK and DMK flung mud at each other in their respective election meetings.
The DMK also contested Madras city municipal elections in 1959 and formed the administration. In 1962 the DMK contested again and got fifty seats in the Assembly and eight seats in Lok Sabha. Except for Karunanidhi all the sitting MLA’s including Annadurai lost but the DMK leader was made Rajya Sabha (Upper house) member.
During this period the DMK kept up its drive for a separate Dravida Naadu. As stated earlier the DMK wanted the four south Indian states to reak away from India and then merge together as a Dravida Naadu confederation. There was no support at all for this proposal in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore (Karnataka) states. But there was support in Tamil Nadu chiefly because of attractive DMK propaganda.
The DMK leaders addressed meetings in flowery, alliterative language with musical tones. Their writing too was fiery and emotional. A host of Tamil newspapers like “Kanchi”, “Nam Naadu”, “Thiraavidam” “Thendral”, “Mandram” etc were published apart from the flagship “Murasoli”. A number of books and booklets were also released.
A constant feature of these political meetings was the rousing speech on the theme “En Vendum Inba Thiraavidam?” (Why do we need this sweet Dravidian land?)Different leaders spoke at different meetings on this topic. Pamphlets and booklets with the same heading were also issued. Another familiar emotional proclamation at meetings was “Adainthaal Thani Naadu. Illaiyel Sudukaadu” ( Achieve either a separate state or the cemetery)
Much propaganda mileage was derived through the stage and screen. DMK policies were referred to directly and indirectly in the dialogue. Songs would refer to these in poetic fashion. The Dravida Naadu concept was also publicized very much in film and stage.
One such illustration is the song written by Kannadasan for his own production “Maalaiyitta Mangai” in 1957. The song has martial melody composed by the duo Viswanathan-Ramamurthy. It is sung effectively on a very high note by TR Mahalingam. The chorus is “Engal Thiraavidap Pon Naadu. Kalai Vaazhum Thennaadu” (our golden Dravidian country. The southern land where arts flourish)
click play: “Engal Thiraavidap Pon Naadu. Kalai Vaazhum Thennaadu”
An amusing example of how film dialogue was utilized to promote Dravida Naadu is from the film “Puthiya Paathai” starring Gemini Ganesh in 1960.( different to the one directed and acted in by Parthiban in 1989)
The dialogue was written by “Murasoli” Maaran the nephew of DMK chief minister Muttuvel Karunanidhi. Maaran’ s son Dayanidhi is a cabinet minister in Manmohan Singh’s government. The elder son Kalanidhi owns the “Sun group” media conglomerate.
In this film the hero Gemini and his friend played by Balaji are discussing the kind of wife they would like to have. One tells the other “her complexion must be fair like that of a woman from Kerala; her figure must be perfect like that of women from Andhra; her voice should be sweetly melodious as that of Karanataka; her face must be have beautiful features like that of Tamil women”.
The friend then responds “Surunga sonnaal oru Thiraavida Naadu vendum engiraai” (in short you are asking for a Dravida state) Since the four South Indian states were to comprise the envisaged Dravida Naadu this crude yet direct piece of contrived dialogue summed up the secessionist cause for film fans.
In today’s enlightened age this description of the ideal desirable woman would receive scornful laughter. But nearly fifty years ago it was well received by the target audience.
It was mainly through propaganda stratagems and cinematic devices like these that the DMK espoused the secessionist cause. There were two schools of thought within the DMK who were getting disillusioned with the Dravida Naadu demand.
One group wanted the party to discard Dravida Naadu and focus on a separate Tamil Nadu demand alone. The other felt secession was unattainable and therefore should be dropped in favour of a demand for greater autonomy for the state within India.
But Annadurai was reluctant to alter course. One of Annadurai’s strong deputies was EVK Sampath the son of Periyaar’s brother Krishnaswamy. Sampath had fallen out with his paternal uncle and rossed over with Annadurai in 1949.
[EVK Sampath-pic: www.iniyan.in]
Initially Sampath urged Annadurai to drop the Dravida Naadu demand and take up the Tamil Naadu secessionist demand. But Anna disagreed and persuaded Sampath to stick with the Dravida Naadu demand where the DMK wanted all four South Indian states to secede and then confederate. One reason Annadurai adduced was that the sharing of river waters would be a big problem for Tamil Naadu if the South Indian states did not belong to a practical political arrangement.
Annadurai felt that the DMK should stick to it’s policy until the party increased political representation significantly. Rightly or wrogly Annadurai felt then that political mobilization was easier along Dravidian secessionism than Tamil Nadu secessionism.
While his fiery deputies thundered about Dravida Naadu and Tamil Naadu the articulate Annadurai avoided both references to a great extent and instead used the term “Thani Naadu” (separate state) more in his Tamil political discourse.
[P. Nedumaran and poet Kannadasan-pic: Kannadasan pathippagam]
In 1961 Sampath, Kannadasan, MP Subramaniam, P. Nedumaran and some others broke away from the DMK and formed the Tamil Thesiyak Katchi or Tamil Nationalist party. The TTK initially demanded a separate Tamil Naadu and bitterly criticized the Dravida Naadu demand as unrealistic and unachievable.
When Annadurai was questioned on this he retorted in style. Referring to the Ramayana, Annadurai said “would we accept it if those who went in search of Sita returned with another woman and said we did not get Sita so we brought this Chinthamani ( She is a woman after whom a Tamil epic is named). Likewise our quest is Dravida Naadu or Sita not Tamil Naadu or Chinthamani”.
Yet within a few years Annadurai was to change track completely and abandon not only Dravida Naadu goal but also Tamil secessionist politics entirely. In a pragmatic move that saved the DMK as a viable political party , Annadurai gave up Tamil secessionism. Consequently he led the DMK to power in 1967.
(The first part of this article was posted on this Blog under the heading “Roots of Tamil Nadu secessionism in India“. The second part of this article was posted on this blog under the heading “Indian Independence and the Periyaar-Anna break-up“. This is the third part of the article. The fourth and final part of this article will be published next week)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com