DMK, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajagopalachari (Rajaji)

11. DMK's Black Flag Demonstrations of the 1950s

Chapter 11
"Political History of the Rise and Fall of Dravidian Parties in Tamil Nadu (South India)"

Thanjai Nalankilli, Ph.D.

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2006 (ID. 2006-05-01)
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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

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

YMCA- Young Men's Christian Association

In 1950, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Executive Committee decided to show black flags to all Indian government ministers visiting Madras State (Tamilnadu). (At that time DMK held the view that the north-dominated Indian government was discriminating the state.) We discuss in this chapter some significant black flag demonstrations of the 1950s. 

DMK cadres showed black flags to Indian government minister Diwahar on September 9, 1950, when he came to Madras (Chennai) to participate in the graduation ceremony of Thyagaraya Nagar Hindi School. Black flags were shown again the next day when he went to Kanchipuram.

Another black flag demonstration took place on October 24, 1950 during Rajagopalachari's visit to the state. (Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) was at that time an Indian government minister. He was the Prime Minister of Madras Province in the 1930s and would again become the Chief Minister of Madras State in 1952.) Over 1000 DMK volunteers took part in the demonstrations. They stood with black flags on either side of the road through which Rajaji would travel to attend a function at a YMCA student hostel. In an attempt to disburse them before Rajaji arrived, police beat them with batons (lathis). Many, including the noted Tamil scholar K. Appadurai, were injured. Over sixty were arrested. Though the crowd disbursed following the baton charge (lathi charge), many re-assembled and showed black flags to Rajaji when he left the function.

Another Indian government minister Harikrishna Mahatab was virtually stalked by DMK cadres with black flags throughout his travels in the state. Black flags were shown to him on January 7, 1951 in Madras, on January 8 in Trichi, on January 11 in Dindugal and on January 12 on Madurai.

Munshi faced black flags in Madras on February 1, 1951; Gopalswamy Iyengar in Madras on May 15, 1951; Jagajivanram in Salem on July 15, 1951, in Coimbatore on July 17 and in Madurai on July 19. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was greeted with black flags in Kolar on July 16, 1951. (Kolar was known for its gold mines in those times.)

The above is a partial list of black flag demonstrations when Indian government ministers visited Madras State. Probably 1950 and 1951 saw the most number of black flag demonstrations. Then DMK gave up showing black flags to each and every Indian government minister visiting Madras State but showed black flags or hoisted black flags for specific reasons.

A notable black flag demonstration was against the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958. The previous year Jawaharlal Nehru had called protests and statements by DK and DMK leaders against Hindi imposition and issues as "nonsense". To protest this, DMK planned black flag demonstrations on January 6, 1958 when Nehru visited the state. State police banned all public meetings and processions for 15 days from December 31, 1957 in order to thwart these demonstrations. DMK called it an infringement of their freedom of speech and decided to defy the ban.

DMK announced a public meeting on January 3, 1958 at Thiruvallikeni Beach (Chennai). Police arrested Annadurai and a few other leaders on their way to the meeting. News of the arrests reached the people gathered at the meeting site. They shouted in Tamil "Long Live Annadurai! Down with Congress Rule!" (Anna Vaazha! Congress Aatchi Oziha!). Police baton-charged (lathi-charged) and tear-gassed the crowd.

DMK continued with its plan for black flag demonstrations on January 6. So police arrested more DMK leaders on January 4 and 5. One of the most popular matinee idols and a member of DMK, M. G. Ramachandran, was one of those arrested.

In spite of all the arrests and other police preventive measures, black flags were shown to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on January 6, 1958 on his way from the Meenambakkam Airport (Chennai) to Guindy (a part of Chennai). There was lathi charge and some arrests. One of those arrested was A. P. Arasu, who would become the Mayor of Madras City (Chennai) in a few years.

Many were hospitalized from the lathi charge. Two died as a consequence of the lathi charge. Angered by the lathi charge and tear gas, some demonstrators burnt a few government buses and looted a few stores.

Those arrested were released in a few days. Annadurai himself was released after five days. Charges were filed against Annadurai and ten other leaders for defying the ban on public meetings and processions. They were fined 25000 Rupees, or ten days in jail if they failed to pay the fine. They all refused to pay the fine. So they were taken to jail but released after just two days. Government confiscated things from their houses and offices and auctioned them off to pay the fine.

There were a number of black flag demonstrations including hoisting of black flags in the coming years. The last such demonstration (hoisting black flags) organized by DMK seems to be on January 26, 1965 against Hindi imposition. Two years later DMK won a landslide victory in the 1967 election because of the anti-Hindi-imposition sentiment among the Tamil people. [We will discuss 1965 and 1967 in more detail in later chapters.]

NOTE 1: K. Appadurai was known as "panmozi pulavar" (scholar of many languages). He had written well over a dozen books. He was a member of DMK and participated in the October 1950 black flag demonstration. Some years later he left DMK because of policy differences. He died a poor man. When some Tamil scholars approached the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi (DMK) to help his family financially, he refused. Some years later the Tamil Nadu government under Karunanidhi nationalized the books of many Tamil scholars and paid them or their families substantial sums as royalty. Panmozi PulavarAppadurai's books were among those nationalized and compensated.

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

Appadurai - Appathurai
Dindugal - Thindugal, Dindukal, Thindukal
Kanchipuram - Kancheepuram
Karunanidhi - Karunanithi
Meenambakkam - Meenampakkam
Panmozi - Panmozhi
Thyagaraya - Thyagaraja
Trichi - Tiruchi, Thiruchi, hiruchirapalli

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