Jayalalithaa says Karunanidhi unilaterally brought in legislation for the purpose

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday alleged that the DMK government had changed Tamil New Year from the first day of Chithirai to the first day of Thai with the ulterior motive of giving prominence to the ‘Chennai Sangamam', a cultural festival that promoted folk arts, organised by Mr Karunanidhi's daughter and DMK MP Kanimozhi.

“Though Mr. Karunanidhi had claimed that the announcement for changing New Year was made in the Governor's address in 2008, it was actually announced at the Chennai Sangamam function,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said, replying to a calling attention motion moved by Republican Party of India (RPI) leader C.K. Tamilarasan.

While addressing Chennai Sangamam, Mr. Karunanidhi expressed his willingness to organise the event every year to mark the Pongal festival and came out with the theory that 500 Tamil scholars had favoured the idea of celebrating Tamil New Year on Thai, Ms. Jayalalithaa said.

“Then he said an official announcement, making the first day of Thai Tamil New year would soon be made. Probably, he thought that such an announcement will ensure recognition for Chennai Sangamam,” she said.

Subsequently, the Directorate of the Tamil Development had written a letter to the government saying if there was a proposal to change the month of Tamil New Year, it should be discussed in the Tamil Development Council, since a similar letter in 2004 also stressed the point.

She alleged that the content of the letter was changed, probably under pressure from the government, as the original letter had made it mandatory for the government to discuss the issue.

“So without any proper debate, Mr. Karunanidhi unilaterally brought in legislation to change the date of New Year. But people did not accept it and continue to celebrate on the first day of Chithirai,” she added.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said while she had no difference of opinion with the argument that the World Tamil Conference organised by the DMK in 1968 had the clear objective of spreading the greatness of Tamil across the world, the sole objective of the Classical Tamil Conference organised in 2010 was to seek publicity for Mr. Karunanidhi .

“While great Tamil scholars of Mr. Karunanidhi's family adorned the first row of the conference hall, true Tamil scholars were forced to sit in the back rows,” she said.

She also refuted Mr. Karunanidhi's argument that barring Chithirai and Karthigai, the names of Tamil months were not derived from the star falling on the Full Moon day of the month.

In fact, all these months assumed their names from the star of the Full Moon day, though in a corrupt form, she contended. For example, she said, Visakam was the star of the Full Moon day of Vaikasi. The month's name is a corrupt version of Vaisakam. Similarly, Aani is the corrupt form of Anusham and Puratasi the corrupt form of Poorattaathi.

Responding to Mr. Karunanidhi's claim that the Classical Tamil Etymological Dictionary had described Thai as the first month of Tamil New Year, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the DMK leader had conveniently suppressed the detail available on page 113 of the book.

“It says that the detail was taken from a book Tamil Aandu. If the Etymological Dictionary had referred to Thai as the first month of the New Year, why had it just called it the Tamil month, January-February,” she asked.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said even late Tamil scholar Mu. Varadarajan only said Thai was an occasion for thanksgiving to nature and had not called it New Year.

The Chief Minister also recalled a private motion moved by Mr. Karunanidhi in the Assembly in 1963, seeking to declare the second Saturday of any month as holiday to mark the Thiruvalluvar Day.

“His argument was that if another day was chosen, that day could be declared a holiday and the second Saturday of that month could be a working day,” she said.

She wondered why Mr. Karunanidhi had not then demanded that the government declare a day in Thai as Thiruvalluvar Day, if he really believed that the saint-poet was born in that month.

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