Tamil Nadu

Dravida Nadu: from political oblivion to centre-stage

The demand for a separate Dravida Nadu has become a talking point exactly 55 years after the DMK dropped the idea in 1963. Though the idea was in the air for quiet sometime, especially after actor Kamal Haasan sought to theorise it before the run-up to the launch of his party, it was DMK working president M.K. Stalin who brought the issue to the fore when he responded to a question on the perceived momentum gaining in support of the demand.

Mr. Stalin subsequently argued that the neglect of the southern States by the BJP government at the Centre had actually fuelled the idea. To drive home the point, he quoted DMK founder C.N. Annadurai’s famous statement that “the reasons for creation of the Dravida Nadu continue to hold good.”

Interestingly, the concept of Dravida is a philological term introduced by Christian missionary Robert Caldwell, and according to his biographer Vincent Kumaradoss, the word gained currency following the publication of his Comparative Grammar in 1856.

Caldwell said he used the word Dravidian instead of the narrower term “Tamulian”, which has found its place in all works on the Indian languages, and argued that Dravidian languages were fundamentally different from Sanskrit and had a common origin.

The Dravida Nadu as a political idea was originally floated by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy who came out with the slogan “Tamil Nadu for Tamils” in 1938 in response to the plan to introduce compulsory learning of Hindi across India. By the following year, his clamour had changed to Dravida Nadu because of the South’s cultural oneness. Though Periyar said the two demands were the same, it never gained traction outside the Tamil areas.

‘Outdated idea’

“The idea of Dravida Nadu is passé. It never gained traction. Among other things non-Tamils did not share the concerns of the Tamils and perhaps felt that they would be dominated by the Tamils in any such arrangement,” explained R. Kannan, the biographer of DMK founder C.N. Annadurai.

“Ironically, in 1955 when the idea of Dakshin Pradesh was proposed by the Centre, Periyar “killed” the idea at its birth telegramming Chief Minister Kamaraj to oppose it as the non-Tamils would dominate in such an arrangement,” said Mr. Kannan. Today, the demand for more powers and autonomy are being articulated by the other southern States in the same way as it was articulated by the DMK as early as in the late sixties, he pointed out.

However, describing the Dravida Nadu as an “outdated idea”, Su. Venkatesan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artistes Association, contended that Periyar had defined non-Brahmins as Dravidian.

“Today the Dravidian identity has transformed into nationalities based on languages. The BJP is launching all-out attack to erase the linguistic identity of various nationalities, there is a need to protect their rights and identity,” he said.

Those wedded to the ideology of Tamil nationalism are also highly critical of the idea of Dravidian concept and P. Maniarasan, the leader of Tamil Desiya Periyakkam, felt that it was a ploy to quell the emergence of Tamil Nationalism.

“If Mr. Stalin is really serious about creating a Dravida Nadu, let him visit the neighbouring States and muster support. Is he ready to include the proposal in the election manifesto of his party? Is he ready to convene a special general council of the DMK to propagate the idea,” he asked.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 8:22:46 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dravida-nadu-from-political-oblivion-to-centre-stage/article23288419.ece