Periyar and Maniammai

6. Periyar Drops a Bombshell

Chapter 6
"Political History of the Rise and Fall of Dravidian Parties in Tamil Nadu (South India)"

Thanjai Nalankilli, Ph.D.

TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2005 (ID. 2005-12-01)
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Table of Contents of the book "Political History of the Rise and Fall of Dravidian Parties in Tamil Nadu (South India)"and links to other chapters


DK - Dravidar Kazhagam

C. R. Rajagopalachari and Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker were once Congress Party members and friends. After Periyar left the Congress Party because of his perception of Brahmin domination of the party, they became bitter political enemies. Rajaji was a Brahmin and stood against virtually everything Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) stood for. Yet Rajaji and Periyar continued to be personal friends. (Rajagopalachari was also known as Rajaji and Acharyar.)

Periyar met the then Indian Governor-General Rajaji on May 14, 1949. When DK leaders asked him about the meeting Periyar replied that they discussed personal matters. Upon further pressure from party leaders, including C. N. Annadurai, Periyar published a statement in his newspaper Viduthalai on June 19, 1949. (Viduthalai means "freedom"). The statement said that he no longer was able to travel around and carry on with his work as before because of health. He added that he did not see anyone who would be able to take responsibility of his work. So he was to appoint a heir, and he discussed that matter with Rajaji. (Periyar was 72 at that time.)

Then Periyar dropped a bombshell just nine days later. He published a statement in Viduthalai on June 28, 1949 that he was planning to make Miss K. A. Maniammai his heir. He said that he also intended to make Maniammai a trustee of party funds, along with unnamed four or five others. Miss Maniammai was in her mid-twenties and was a relatively new party activist. Her late father Kanakasabai Mudhaliar of Vellore was a party member. Upon his death a few years before, Maniammai came to work for Dravidar Kazhagam. She became Periyar's personal assistant taking care of him. Periyar, a long-time widower with no children, was in his late sixties when Maniammai became his personal assistant. As of 1949, she was taking care of Periyar for about five years. Periyar's decision to name a relatively new party activist as his heir shocked many party leaders and cadres. Most party leaders had been with him for many years and had participated in various agitations and gone to jail.

Then a newspaper broke the news that Periyar had applied for Periyar-Maniammai registered marriage. Date of the application was June 18, 1949. He might have written the June 19 statement in Viduthalai at about the same time he applied for marriage registration.

Many party cadres and leaders thought that marriage between Periyar in his seventies and Maniammai in her twenties went against the very rationalist principles DK and Periyar preached. Periyar explained that the marriage was to make Maniammai his legal heir and nothing more. Party leaders were also angry that Periyar was, in effect, anointing Maniammai as his successor to lead the party, superseding senior party leaders. Not everyone was opposed to the marriage. Many party leaders and cadres stood with Periyar.

Telephone calls and telegrams from party leaders from many parts of the Madras Province came to Periyar asking him not to go through with the marriage. The first one to act was E. V. K. Sampath. He was a top leader in DK and manager of Viduthalai newspaper. He resigned his position with Viduthalai. He might have hurt feelings not only as a party leader but also as a close family member. He was Periyar's nephew (older brother's son).

A delegation consisting of Kudanthai K. K. Neelamegam, N. V. Natarajan, S. Guruswamy (Editor, Viduthalai), Vellore Thirunavukkarasu and Cuddalore Guruswamy met with Periyar and asked him not to proceed with the marriage. Periyar did not budge. Then a second delegation comprising T. M. Parthasarathy, Kanji Manimozhiyar, Kannapiran and C. V. Rajan also met Periyar and asked him to cancel the wedding. Periyar refused.

A number of regional leaders, individually or in small groups, issued statements that they would not participate in party activities under Periyar because they were against the impending marriage. Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) Administrative Committee (Nirvaka kuzhu) met in Thennoor on July 10, 1949 and passed a resolution asking Periyar not to proceed with the marriage. After the resolution was passed, the committee received a telegram that the marriage had taken place. So their resolution had no longer any meaning.

In the coming days and weeks party cadres and leaders met in small and large groups to discuss the marriage and party's future. One group stood loyal to the party president Periyar. Another group did not want to engage in party activities under Periyar's leadership. The "rebel leaders" met on July 30, 1949 and decided to publish their own daily newspaper to present their views and to counter views expressed in Periyar's newspaper Viduthalai. The first issue of the new newspaper Malai Mani (Evening Bell) hit the newsstands on August 10, 1949. C. N. Annadurai was the editor and R. Nedunchezhian was the chief deputy editor. (More about Malai Mani in Chapter 11.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: Some Tamil names are spelled differently by different people. Here are some variations of names used in this chapter:

Dravidar Kazhagam - Dravidar Kazagam
Kanji - Kanchi
Manimozhiyar - Manimoziyar, Manimoliyar
Mudhaliar - Muthaliar
Naicker - Nayakkar, Nayakar
Nedunchezhian - Nedunjchezhian

[SUMMARY: Periyar's meeting with Rajaji. 72-year old Periyar's wedding to Maniammai in her twenties.]

FIS051107    2005-a1d

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