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DMK and Tamil Nadu Independence:
A Recent Political History of TamilNadu

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2003 (ID. 2003-11-01)
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Abbreviations

Definition

Forewords

 1. Introduction

 2. Enslavement of the Tamil Nation

 3. Early Calls for Tamil Nadu Independence

 4. Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and Tamil Nadu Independence

 5. Birth of Dravida Munnertra Kazhagam (DMK) and Tamil Nadu Independence

 6. DMK Meetings and Conferences on Dravida Nadu Independence

 7. 1952 Election and Independence Demand

 8. 1957 Election and Independence Demand

 9. 1962 Election and Independence Demand

10. Thiruchengodu Bye-Election of 1962 and Independence Demand

11. Independence Demand in Annadurai's Parliamentary Speeches

12. Dravida Nadu or Tamil Nadu?

13. DMK Leaders' Commitment to Independence from India?

ABBREVIATIONS

DK - Dravidar Kazhagam

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

DEFINTION

Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).

Forewords

This article is not about whether Tamil people should vote for DMK or not. If you feel like voting for DMK in the next election for whatever reason, go ahead and vote for DMK candidates. This is about the history of Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK); its role in the Tamil Nadu independence movement, how it spread this ideology around TamilNadu, and ultimately abandoned it when the Indian Government threatened to ban it as a political party. This is a history Tamil people should know.

1. Introduction

Tamil Nadu Independence Movement and aspirations of Tamil people for independence from Indian rule predates the formation of Dravida Munneta Kazagam (DMK), in fact it predates the formation of its parent party Dravidar Kazahagam (DK). However, from the very beginnings of the Tamil Nadu Independence Movement, you will see in the forefront leaders who would later found DK and DMK.

2. Enslavement of the Tamil Nation

Tamil people lost their sovereignty with the fall of the last standing Tamil royal dynasty, the Pandya Dynasty, around 1311. The three major kingdoms of Chera Nadu, Chola Nadu and Pandya Nadu ceased to exist, and a succession of outsiders, namely, the Sultans, the Nayaks, Maharashtrians and the Nawabs, ruled Tamil Nadu in fragments for some time. Then came the Europeans; all of Tamil Nadu, with the exception of Pondycherry,  fell under British colonial rule. (Pondychery was ruled by the French.) British integrated all the conquered nations of the Indian subcontinent into a single administrative unit and formed the "British India". This was the first time something like India existed, under any name, in all history. When the British decided to leave the subcontinent in 1947, they intended to leave it as a single country, at the suggestion of the Congress Party. Muslims of the northwest and northeast objected to it vocally and violently and the British rulers divided the subcontinent into two countries, India and Pakistan. Though there were voices of objection from Tamil Nadu, these voices were feeble and their actions not forceful that the British turned a deaf ear to them. Tamil Nadu became a part of the Hindian and Aryan  dominated India. This is the story of how Tamil Nadu came under Indian (more precisely, Hindian) rule. See Reference 1 for a detailed discussion of how Tamil Nadu lost its sovereignty.

3. Early Calls for Tamil Nadu Independence

T. P. Vedachalam of the Justice Party founded Tamil Nation  Liberation Association (Tamil Desa Viduthalai Sangam) in Thiruchirapalli (Thiruchi, Trichi) in August 1938. The Association held a few meetings around Tamil Nadu and then ceased its operations because the cause was adopted by a larger organization, the Justice Party. Tamil Nation Liberation Association has a special place in history as the first Tamil Nadu Independence Movement of the 20-th Century.

E. V. Ramaswamy (Periyar E.V.R.) of the Self-Respect Movement, addressing a meeting in Salem on October 1938, said that, "the best way to preserve the liberty of Tamils is to agitate for separation from the rest of India and the proposed All-India Federation, just as Ceylon and Burma had chosen to stand aloof from India". E. V. Ramaswamy (Periyar E.V.R.) became the leader of the Justice Party. He said that the separation of Tamil Nadu from the rest of the Indian Subcontinent would be the principal demand of the Party. 

Tamil patriots organized "Tamil Nadu for Tamils" meetings throughout Tamil Nadu on December 10, 1939 to explain to the public the need for Tamil Nadu independence. C. N. Annadurai (Arinjar Anna), who would found the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) ten years later was the principal speaker on that day. He was an excellent orator and he enunciated the need for independent Tamil Nadu very clearly.

The Provincial Tamilar Conference held in Vellore on December 27, 1939 discussed Tamil Nadu independence and resolved to work for it.

The Justice Party State Conference in Thiruvarur on August 24, 1940 passed a resolution that, in order to protect Dravidian culture, arts and economy, the Dravidian homeland of Madras Province should be separated from the rest of the Indian Subcontinent and ruled as a separate unit (until the British leave the subcontinent, at which time the Madras Province would become an independent country). Thus what started as Tamil Nadu Independence Movement morphed into Dravida Nadu Independence Movement. We will discuss this transformation further in Section 12 (NOTE: We have discussed here only a few key events of pre-DMK years, as the emphasis of this article is on "DMK and the Tamil Nadu Independence Movement". A more detailed discussion of the history of Tamil Nadu independence struggle will be given in another article.)

4. Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and Tamil Nadu Independence

The Justice Party became Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) in 1944, under the leadership of Periyar EVR. At the Dravidar Kazhagam State Conference in Thiruchirapalli (Thiruchi, Trichi), C. N. Annadurai elaborated the arguments for independent Dravida Nadu. Here are a few excerpts from his lengthy speech: 

"India is a continent and it should be divided into separate nations (countries). There is no need for it to be under a single government."

"India should be divided according to racial lines to prevent future bloodsheds."

"Aryan dominance grows under a single Indian country. Other races are destroyed."

"Dividing India into separate countries would allow for each to develop its economy according to its circumstances and prevent one region taking the wealth of another."

Dravida Nadu Separation Conference was held in Cuddalore on October 14, 1947. The famed Tamil scholar and former Congress leader V. Kalyana Sundaram (Thiru Vee Kaa) gave a long speech about the Aryan-Dravidian problem. A resolution that Dravida Nadu should become an independent country was passed.

V. Kalyana Sundaram (Thiru Vee Kaa) unveiled a map of Dravida Nadu at the Erode Dravidar Kazhagam Conference.

(NOTE: We will not discuss more about DK because this article is about DMK's role in Tamil Nadu Independence Movement. A more detailed discussion of the history of Tamil Nadu independence struggle will be given in another article.)

5. Birth of Dravida Munnertra Kazhagam (DMK) and Tamil Nadu Independence

C. N. Annadurai, or Arinjar Anna as he was popularly known, split from Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and founded Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on September 17, 1949. Many other DK leaders joined with him. Reason for the split was not ideological but personal grievances against the DK leader Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy. Annadurai stated that DMK would work for the independence of Dravida Nadu. In fact, for many years, DMK observed the day of its founding, September 17, as "Dravida Nadu Liberation Day", with meetings organized around Tamil Nadu. Annadurai stated that DK and DMK are like a two-barrel gun, fighting for Dravida Nadu freedom.

6. DMK Meetings and Conferences on Dravida Nadu Independence

Madras State DMK Students Conference in Madras (Chennai) on November 8, 1950 passed a resolution calling for the independence of Drvida Nadu. 

DMK State Conference was held on December 12-16, 1951. As Annadurai raised the party flag there were shouts of "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians" from the audience. Later Annadurai and other DMK leaders spoke about the need for independent Dravida Nadu.

DMK leaders spoke of the need for independent Dravida Nadu during the 1952, 1957 and 1962 election campaigns. DMK did not field candidates in the 1952 general election but supported independent and other party candidates. More about these elections later.

DMK held its Third General Conference on July 13-16, 1961 in Madurai suburb of Thiruparankundram (Thiruparangkundram). There were loud shouts of "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians" when party General-Secretary C. N. Annadurai hoisted the party flag on the first day. Such shouts were heard from party cadres throughout the four-day conference. There were plenty of references to independent Dravida Nadu in the speeches made by party leaders. In his concluding speech on the fourth day, Annadurai urged everyone to work hard for "our independence".

DMK held its Special Election Conference in the textile city Coimbatore (Kovai) on December 16 and 17, 1961, in preparation for the forthcoming 1962 general election. Shouts of "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians" were heard throughout this two-day event and all the speakers touched on the need for independent Dravida Nadu.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) celebrated "Dravida Nadu Independence Festival" (Dravida Nadu Viduthalai Vizaa) in Chennai (Madras) on September 22, 1962. Over 200,000 people participated in the procession organized as part of that festival. Over 300,000 people attended the meeting. But, alas, DMK abandoned its independence demand on November 13, 1963 when the Indian Government threatened to ban the party from contesting elections if it did not abandon its independence demand!

(NOTE: The above are some key meetings and conferences in which independence demand was raised. Not one DMK meeting or conference went by between 1949 and 1962 without a speaker raising the demand for independent Dravida Nadu.)

7. 1952 Election and Independence Demand

DMK decided not to field candidates in the 1952 general election. At the DMK General Council Meeting in Madurai on November 17, 1951, a resolution was passed that DMK would support other party candidates and independent candidates who sign a pledge that they would support independence for Dravida Nadu. Initially DMK planned to support Communist Party candidates but then it withdrew the support because the Communist Party refused to sign the pledge. DMK did support 45 independent candidates who signed he pledge and over half of them won the election to the State Legislative Assembly. One such successful independent candidate was Mr. Suyamprakasam. He and 20 others who won with DMK support formed the Dravidian Parliamentary Party and functioned as a unit. With only about 20 members it could not do much.

8. 1957 Election and Independence Demand

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagm (DMK) General Council decided on December 29, 1956 to field candidates in the 1957 general election. It contested on an election platform that included demand for independent Drvida Nadu. DMK won 15 seats to the State Legislative Assembly and 2 seats to the Indian Parliament.

9. 1962 Election and Independence Demand

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagm (DMK) held its Election Special Conference in Coimbatore on December 16-17, 1961. DMK leaders spoke of the need for independence from India. Shouts of "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians" were heard all through the conference. DMK's election platform included its demand for independence from India. In the 1962 election, held between February 17 and 24,  DMK more than tripled its seats, winning 50 seats to the State Legislative Assembly and 7 seats to the Indian Parliament.

10. Thiruchengodu Bye-Election of 1962 and Independence Demand

Because the Member of Parliament (MP) from Thiruchengodu, Dr. Subbarayan of Congress Party, resigned to take up another appointment, a bye-election was held there on August 11, 1962. Congress Party and DMK contested in a one on one election (that is, only two candidates). Top Congress leaders including many ministers who came to campaign for the Congress candidate told at election rallies that DMK was a separatist party (that is, it demanded independence from India) and so people should not vote for it. As a stunning rebuke, people voted for DMK and the DMK candidate won. DMK leaders claimed that it was a "victory for separatism (independence)".

11. Independence Demand in Annadurai's Parliamentary Speeches

DMK founder and General-Secretary, C. N. Annadurai, was elected to the upper house of Indian parliament (Rajya Sabha) in 1962. In his maiden speech on May 1, 1962, Annadurai reiterated DMK's demand for independence for Dravida Nadu. He said, "Dravidians demand the right of self determination . . . We want a separate country for southern India."

Speaking about his maiden speech at parliament, Annadurai said at a public meeting in Chennai (Madras), "I am steadfast in the Dravida Nadu demand I spoke of in the upper house of parliament."

At another time, commenting on a statement made by the President of India Dr. Radhakrishnan, Annadurai said, "You say that India is one country because Raman and Krishnan are worshipped from Kanyakumari to Himalayas. Jesus is worshipped throughout Europe, yet there are many countries in Europe."

12. Dravida Nadu or Tamil Nadu?

Why did DK and DMK talk about independent Dravida Nadu, and not independent Tamil Nadu? Actually the original demand in 1938 was for independent Tamil Nadu (see Section 3). Within two years it metamorphosed into a demand for independent Dravida Nadu (see Section 3). Why this change?

Tamil Nadu, at that time, was part of the Madras Province. This province consisted of much of Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh (Telugu speakers), Karnataka (Kannada speakers) and Kerala (Malayalam speakers). Tamil Nadu was the major component of this province. While the Madras Province was ruled directly by the British, the rest of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala were ruled by kings who were "subservient" to the British. Goal of the Dravida Nadu proponents was that the entire Madras Province should be separated from the rest of British colonial possessions in the Indian Subcontinent and the British should rule it separately from the rest of the subcontinent until the British colonial rule ends. Then, when the British leave the subcontinent, Madras Province would become an independent nation as it happened to Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), which were ruled separately from the subcontinent. This independent nation is called "Dravida Nadu" which consisted of mostly Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. It was hoped that the rest of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala under the rule of kings would join the Dravida Nadu (in the same way all the kingdoms joined either India or Pakistan after the British left). That Dravida Nadu concept made sense at that time.

Proponents of the above strategy, however, did not do much to convince or pressure the British to separate Madras Province from the rest of the subcontinent. When the British left the subcontinent in 1947, Madras Province (renamed Madras State) became part of India. India was reorganized into linguistic states in the mid-1950s and the Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam areas of the Madras State went to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, respectively. Since there was very little interest in a Dravida Nadu in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, and there was considerable interest in independence from India in Tamil Nadu, it no longer made sense to demand independent Dravida Nadu. DK and DMK should have reverted to the original demand of 1938, namely, demand for independent Tamil Nadu. 

Some years later Dravida Kazhagam (DK) did revert to "independence for Tamil Nadu". Its official publication Viduthalai (means "independence") changed the text in its front-page logo from "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians" to "Tamil Nadu for Tamilians". Dravida Munnetra Kazhagm DMK) did not make such a change; it continued with the Dravida Nadu demand although that demand no longer made sense. A senior DMK leader, Mr. T. M. Parthasarathy, explained DMK's position thus: "The four Dravidian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala should get independence separately and the four should should join on racial lines (Dravidian race) to form a Dravidian Federal Union" This explanation does make some sense. It implies that all four Dravidian states need not fight together and get independence together. Each may get independence separately on its own phase. As they get independence the four would form the Dravidian Federal Union. In other words, Tamil Nadu would fight its own independence battle and achieve independence. When and if the other three Dravidian states become free, a Dravidian Federal Union would be formed. Whatever was DMK's goal, it did very little to achieve it except for talking about it ad infinitum at public meetings. This raises the question, "Were DMK leaders committed to fighting for an independent Dravida Nadu or Tamil Nadu?"

13. DMK Leaders' Commitment to Independence from India?

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leaders like C. N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, R. Nedunjchezian and Anaazhagan did understand the need for independence of TamilNadu (or Dravida Nadu) from Hindian dominated Indian rule. Writings and speeches of Annadurai in the 1940's and 1950's clearly enunciate the need for independence.

Annadurai and the other leaders would very much have liked to see an independent country not dominated by Hindi speakers of the north. They saw it in their heart--the glory days of the historic Tamil Nadu coming back alive in modern Tamil Nadu. But they did not have the commitment or courage to fight for it either through a non-violent civil disobedience movement (like Gandhi in India) or through armed struggle (like George Washington in America) or a combination of both.

DMK leaders talked and talked about independence. Even that talking they stopped when the Indian Government passed a law prohibiting those who talk about independence from contesting elections. So much for their commitment for independence!

DMK had popular and charismatic leaders and a mass following. There were tens of thousands of committed Tamil Nationalists among DMK cadres who were willing to go to jail in a civil disobedience movement for independence. They could have nurtured the independence movement. Results of the 1962 general election and the Tiruchengodu bye-election showed that Tamil populace was not averse to independence (see Section 9 and 10). But DMK leaders abandoned it at the very first threat from Indian Government. However TamilNadu Independence Movement did not die with DMK's abandonment of the cause. Although he did not have the mass following of Annadurai or a large organization like DMK, Poet Perunjchiththiranar, popularly known as Pavalareru (or Paavalareru), carried the torch of freedom until his death in 1994 (Reference 2). Over the years he had generated many thousands of Tamil nationalists of the next generation, aspiring for an independent TamilNadu. While Paavalareru chose the non-violent path, one Mr. Thamizaharasan of the next generation chose the path of armed struggle and formed the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA). Though he was killed in action and the "army" is small, it is still active and continues to give headache to the Indian Government. Indian Government is spending substantial sums of money and personnel to destroy it but it still exists and is active. There are also "underground" groups of Tamil nationalists thirsting for independence, spread around Tamil Nadu in college campuses and elsewhere without a national network. Impact of these groups in the long term is not predictable at this time but has the potential to be substantive by way of support to a future Pavalareru or Thamizharasan.

Independence for Tamil Nadu is our Birthright!
We will ask for it!
We will fight for it!
We will achieve it!!

REFERENCES

1. Nine Hundred Year Historical Perspective of how Tamil Nadu lost its Sovereignty and How Selfish Politicians are selling out Tamil National Rights Today: Part II (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 2002

2. Who is this Perunchiththiranar? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, October 1999

RELATED ARTICLES

1. Why Independence (Freedom) for Tamil Nadu from Indian Rule? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 1999

2. DMK, Dravida Nadu and D.B.S. Jeyaraj (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2003

3. Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000

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