During 1974-75 when the reputed Christian Medical College (CMC) Hospital in Vellore came down strongly on striking employees and sacked 15 of them, the US consulate in Chennai had surmised that the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had tried to ignite anti-Malayalee and anti-Christian feelings.
Such an inference has been made in separate cables (released by Wikileaks) titled ‘Deteriorating Situation at Vellore Medical College and Hospital’ dated March 13, 1975 and ‘End of Vellore Hospital Strike’ dated March 19, 1975, sent by the US consulate to its Embassy in New Delhi.
When the strike eventually ended in a seemingly ‘no-gain, no-loss’ settlement for both warring parties, the US consulate expressed fears that “communal frictions” could flare up again with the diplomat inferring that Karunanidhi had appealed to an “anti-Malayalee feeling” during the strike and “singled out” the Christian community for having behaved in an “unchristian way”. (CMC had a significant presence of Keralites and Christians in its administrative ranks.)
“There is also a major undercurrent of Tamil-Malayalee rivalry in the situation at CMC (Karunanidhi has publicly charged that CMC is being run by “one linguistic group,” i.e.Malayalees) and, given Karunanidhi’s increasing efforts to present himself as a protector of Tamil interests in the face of the challenge from his rival, MGR, this factor has probably figured in his reaction,” the cable said.
Those days DMK cadres used to describe MGR as a non-Tamil owing to his Keralite origin. The consulate felt Karunanidhi had tried to score some political points with the masses “at the expense of Malayalees and the CMC management.”
Incidentally, the strike ended after Karunanidhi announced that the State Government would find other jobs for 15 dismissed workers. However, the US consulate saw this as “a bad precedent for labour management relationship.”
Commenting on the settlement, Karunanidhi had told the Assembly that his Government’s only fault was “going to the succour of Harijan workers.” He criticised the hospital saying “Forget and forgive is the cardinal principal of Christianity. Yet they (management) are not inclined to forgive.”