Governor R.N. Ravi’s recent remark that he preferred the name ‘Tamizhagam’ for the State has sparked a controversy, with many political parties condemning his speech and recalling the struggle that took place to rename Madras State as Tamil Nadu.
While these parties are not averse to the word ‘Tamizhagam’, what seemed to have irked them is the perceptible dislike expressed by the Governor for the name Tamil Nadu. ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy used this name as early as in 1938. Over the subsequent years, on multiple occasions, he demanded that the State be renamed, and used both Tamizhagam and Tamil Nadu as his preferred names on different occasions.
In 1953, Tamil scholar Ma. Po. Sivagnanam raised the demand in the Madras Legislative Council. In February 1956, a group of parties, including the Tamil Arasu Kazhagam, the Communist Party of India and the Praja Socialist Party, called for a one-day bandh to highlight this demand.
Supporting the linguistic reorganisation of States as a move that would strengthen democracy and national integration, Communist leader P. Jeevanandam recalled that poet Subramania Bharati sang both Vazhiya Bharatha Mani Thirunadu and Senthamizh Nadennum Pothinile. He said the Tamil-speaking geography should be called Tamil Nadu.
On July 27, 1956, Gandhian K.P. Sankaralinganar started a fast-unto-death protest. Among his 12 demands, which included total prohibition, electoral reforms and reduction of unnecessary lavish expenditure by the government, the primary one was the linguistic reorganisation of the States and the renaming of Madras State as Tamil Nadu.
Despite appeals from many leaders and his deteriorating health, Sankaralinganar continued his fast and died on October 13, 1956. His death became a rallying cry for political organisations favouring the renaming of the State to intensify their demand.
In February 1961, a resolution towards the renaming was attempted in Madras Legislative Assembly. However, it failed without support of the ruling Congress party. Speaking on the resolution, the then Finance Minister C. Subramaniam, however, offered a compromise that the State government would henceforth mention the name as Tamil Nadu in its communications in Tamil and as Madras State in its communications in English.
In 1961, Member of Parliament and Communist leader Bhupesh Gupta, from West Bengal, moved a Bill in Parliament for renaming Madras State as Tamil Nadu.
Speaking in favour of the Bill in Parliament in 1963, DMK leader C.N. Annadurai argued that a capital city (Madras) cannot become the name of a State. Anna quoted the name Tamil Nadu from ancient literature.
To a question from a member on what was being gained by renaming the State, Annadurai retorted, “What do I gain? What have you gained by renaming Parliament Lok Sabha? What have you gained by renaming the Council of States Rajya Sabha? What have you gained by renaming the President Rashtrapati? Therefore I say, ‘What do you lose?’”
“We gain satisfaction sentimentally; we gain the satisfaction that an ancient name is inculcated in the hearts of millions of people. Is that not enough compensation for the small trouble of changing the name,” he asked.
Without majority support, the Bill was defeated.
It was Annadurai himself who brought in the change when he became the Chief Minister in 1967. The resolution he brought forward in the Assembly on July 18, 1967 was unanimously passed.
Leaders of all parties, including the Congress, welcomed the resolution. It declared the State’s “firm opinion” that its name, mentioned in the Constitution, should be changed to Tamil Nadu.
As the renaming required a Constitutional amendment, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha had to pass a Bill for the purpose. Both the Houses unanimously approved the Bill in November and December 1968, respectively.
The then Home Minister, Y.B. Chavan, described the measure as a general expression of national pride. The Hindu, in its report on the passing of the resolution on November 22, 1968, said, “Mr. Chavan hoped that the new name would bring the State a step closer to integration of the country.”
The State government subsequently issued a gazette notification to bring the name change into effect from January 14, 1969 - Pongal day. The current government had, last year, announced that July 18, the day on which the Assembly adopted the resolution, will be observed as Tamil Nadu Day.