It may be a mere coincident that Periyar Erode Venkatappa (E.V.) Ramasamy (17 September 1879-24 December 1973), the father of the Dravidian Movement and C.N.Annadurai (15 September 1909-3 February 1969), his chief lieutenant who defied him and became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu uprooting the Indian National Congress for ever, were both September born. One would be surprised that Periyar who as a Congressman participated actively in the 1924 Vaikom Satyagraha Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for, but since he was not given due importance, he left the Congress. Periyar was also the President of the Justice Party which agitated with the agenda of anti-Brahminism. He was opposed the God-idea and denounced the shastras, puranas, and their Gods, and call upon the people to burn and destroy them. He launched the Self Respect Movement and later he established Dravidiar Kazhagam (DK) as a pressure group to agitate for social reforms and separate Dravida Nadu. The seeds of anti-Hindi movement were also sown by Periyar and later carried out even violently by Anna.
“EVR nevertheless did attempt unsuccessfully to hitch the Dravida Nadu idea to Jinnah’s Pakistan bandwagon, although his disciple Anna felt the efforts were not robust,” records Anna’s biographer R.Kannan. EVR went to Mumbai along with some of his supporters to meet Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and M.A. Jinnah on 5 January 1940. “Some five months after the Bombay trip, on 6 June 1940, Periyar unveiled at a Dravida Nadu Separation Conference at Kanchipuram (Anna’s birthplace) a Dravida Nadu map showing ‘the whole of South India (sic), Andhra Desa and Deccan (with exception of Hyderabad, all the Eastern coast line India, including a portion of Bengal.” One may remember that the Pakistan Resolution was moved at the Muslim League Conference at Lahore on 23 March 1940 which was presided over by Jinnah!
Periyar arranged a two-day special Dravidar Kazhagam conference on the issue of opposition to Hindi on 23-24 October 1948 at his birthplace Erode and invited Annadurai to preside over. He declared Anna as his successor saying “it is only appropriate that I entrust my responsibilities to another, like a father would do to a son…Therefore, in your eminent presence, today, I am handing over the keys to the safe to Anna.” Anna’s response was:“I will not open the safe without seeking Ayya’s permission.” But soon Periyar was to realize that it was a false turn. On 2 January 1949, at Trichy conference, he made it clear that ‘Fire can shed its burning nature and turn cold; (bitter) neem oil can turn sweet honey; but those who accept power cannot be honest.’ EVR suspected Anna’s aspirations. He did break up with DK to establish Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on 17 September 1949 with a view to contest the elections. The split in DK took place on a funny ground: 72 year old Periyar married a 26 year old lady Maniammai! “It was ironical that on September 17, which is Periyar’s birthday, Anna chose not to give a birthday gift to Periyar, not even a wedding gift, but a parting gift!”, writes a historian Rangraj R.
Anna gave up the demand of Dravida Nadu as a separate State and continued to contest the elections under the banner of DMK improving the tally. In 1967 Tamil Nadu Asembly elections, the ruling Congress was defeated by DMK and Anna became the Chief Minister. Though he had parted company with his Guru Periyar, he went to meet him and dedicated his victory to Ayya (Periyar). Though Anna was the CM for less three years as he died due to cancer, the Congress or any other national party could not make it to Fort St. George till date. The Dravidian parties, DMK and AIADMK, the party established by M.G.Ramchandran on 17 October 1972, have been coming to power in rotation since then.
One of Anna’s greatest attributes was to make the radical ideas of Periyar more palatable to the general populace. “Periyar’s rustic atheism became ‘Onre Kulam, Oruvane Devan’ (One God, One Community) in a skilful appropriation of the venerated medieval Tamil saint Tirumular. When Periyar went about breaking the idols of Pillaiyar (Ganapati) Anna famously observed that he would neither break the idol nor the coconut (in worship),” writes A.R. Venkatachalapathy, a Tamil historian. Gradually, the Dravidian movement changed the shape. From anti-Hindu stance, it reached the pro-Ram Mandir stance during late J. Jayalalitha’s era. Now, of course, the ruling AIADMK is almost adopted by BJP!
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(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )
The Father of Dravidian Movement Periyar with his chief lieutenant turned rival, Anna. Courtesy: Peacockride