The attack in Madurai on the students protesting the imposition of Hindi as the sole official language of the Union government was the turning point in the stir as it triggered the support of students throughout the State and intensified the agitations, according to P Jayaprakasam, who took part in the agitations.
Jayaprakasam, a poet and writer, says Tamil scholars, teachers and students actively participated in the agitations throughout the State. “At that time, I was studying BA first year in Thiagaraja College in Madurai. Among my college mates were former minister K Kalimuthu, poets Na Kamarasan, Mu Metha and Inkulab. The DMK had begun the campaign and agitations in 1963 itself. The students decided to join the struggle on January 25, the first death anniversary of Chinnasamy, who self-immolated at Tiruchy. We decided to burn the copies of the Indian Constitution. But, two of us, Kalimuthu and Kamarasan said all students should not do so as their future will be affected. Kalimuthu and Kamarasan said they alone will burn the copies of the Constitution,” Jayapraksam recounts. The students gathered at Thamukkam Grounds and passed resolutions opposing Hindi as the official language of the Centre.
As decided earlier, Kalimuthu and Kamarasan burnt the copies of the Indian Constitution. Jayaprakasam continues, “The students carried out a procession through the Vadakku Maasi street where the Congress party office was situated. After all the batches of students crossed the Congress office, students of American College who were proceeding through the same street were brutally attacked by Congress men with sickles. The news spread like wildfire and students rushed to the office and ransacked it. Not a single flag mast of the Congress survived in Madurai as students broke and cut all of them. Even, decorations for the Republic Day celebrations were not spared.”
At Chidrambaram, police fired at students on January 27, when they were taking out a procession near the railway gate. Rajendran, a student of the Annamalai University and son of a police constable at Sivagangai was killed in police firing. Another student was severely injured. The death of the student fueled the protests further.
The functioning of government offices were crippled. Railway coaches were burnt and shops were closed. The protests went on for two months till the middle of March.
But when the University examinations approached, parents started worrying about their children’s future and wanted the withdrawal of the agitations. Anna, leader of the DMK, which was backing the struggle, also appealed to the students to call of the protests that crippled the State.
The agitations were called off after assurances that the Union government would take steps for the continuation of English as an official language.