CHENNAI: Most people only remember August 15, 1947 as Independence Day. But it also marked an important shift in Tamil Nadu’s political history. It was the first time differences between Dravida Kazhagam (DK) leader Periyar and his trusted lieutenant CN Annadurai were displayed publicly. Their differences culminated in the formation of the DMK, which now runs the State government.
Archives of various news reports say Periyar, the icon of the Dravidian movement, didn’t want to celebrate Independence Day in 1947 since he believed it would pave the way for permanent domination by the influential Brahmin-Baniya community. The British didn’t heed his demand to create a separate country in the south named ‘Dravida Nadu’, and he appealed to his followers to observe it as a day of mourning.
Annadurai, who was then the general secretary of the DK, openly aired his difference of opinion and appealed for the day to instead be celebrated as ‘Inba Naal, Iniya Naal’. In an article in his magazine Dravida Nadu, he said the aim of the Dravidian movement is to overthrow both the British and the dominance of Brahmins. Since Independence Day means attaining one of the two objectives, it must be celebrated.
He wrote that the Dravidian movement sought freedom from foreign rule, but the Congress was trying to overthrow the British and establish Brahmin rule, and hence, the Congress was to be opposed. He said opposition to the Congress wouldn’t mean support to the British, and reasoned that if the DK didn’t celebrate Independence Day, Congressmen would portray the DK as supporters of the British and hence against independence.
When a large section of DK cadre publicly celebrated the first Independence Day, it became clear that Anna held so much influence among them that they even went against party supremo Periyar’s dictum. The day also helped bring to the roads all Anna’s strong supporters within the DK, and served as a massive public display of his support base.
In the next few months, it appeared that the strain in Periyar and Anna’s relationship had ended, as Anna took part in an anti-Hindi-imposition conference of the DK in Erode in 1948. But Periyar’s decision to marry Maniyammai was the breaking point, and in 1949, Anna formed the DMK, and subsequently in 1956, the party entered electoral politics despite Periyar’s avowed stance against this.
It was widely believed that the large number of DK cadre celebrating the first Independence Day based on Anna’s call gave him the confidence to launch a new party. Suba Veerapandian, general secretary of the Dravida Iyakka Tamilar Peravai, said that both Periyar and Anna opposed the British rule, and while Periyar boycotted the Independence Day celebrations, it wasn’t just him, but even the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan.