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What really happened in the 1956 Madurai event, involving C.N. Annadurai and Muthuramalinga Thevar

September 20, 2023 10:20 pm | Updated September 22, 2023 12:10 pm IST - CHENNAI

A perusal of reports published by The Hindu during May 31 - June 4, 1956 reveals that on the fourth day (June 2) of the golden jubilee celebration of the Madurai Tamil Sangam, Thevar took exception to Annadurai’s speech, but there was no reference in a report carried on June 4, 1956 or subsequently to any statement of regret or apology by the DMK founder

DMK founder and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, C.N. Annadurai (left) and freedom fighter and Forward Bloc leader, U. Muthuramalinga Thevar (right) | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

BJP state president K. Annamalai’s recent claim that DMK founder C.N. Annadurai “apologised” to Forward Bloc leader U. Muthuramalinga Thevar and “ran away from Madurai” after the latter was incensed over certain rationalist remarks made by him at an event in Madurai in 1956, has led to the AIADMK declaring that the BJP is no longer its ally in Tamil Nadu. Mr. Annamalai later defended his claim, saying the incident was reported by The Hindu.

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A perusal of reports published by The Hindu during May 31 to June 4, 1956 reveals that on the fourth day (June 2) of the golden jubilee celebration of the Madurai Tamil Sangam, Thevar took exception to Annadurai’s speech. But there was no reference in a report carried on June 4, 1956 or subsequently to any statement of regret or apology made by the DMK founder.

Screengrab of The Hindu’s report published on June 4, 1956 | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The report in question stated that Thevar had “condemned in strong terms” the organisers of the golden jubilee celebration of the Madurai Tamil Sangam for providing a platform to “leaders of communal organisations” to give vent to their feelings at the meeting held in the precincts of a temple. P.T. Rajan, one of the prominent leaders of the Justice Party and former Chief Minister (April to August 1936), was the chairman of the celebration committee.

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Thevar referred to the “atheistic statements” made by Annadurai on the third day (June 1) of the celebration at the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, the report said, without elaborating on the content of the DMK leader’s speech. The previous day, Annadurai spoke on the theme of “public speaking”. There were other speakers, too, and they included Tamil scholars such as R.P. Sethu Pillai and Avvai Doraiswamy, who delivered their talks on “Tamilian culture” and “Religion of the ancient Tamils”.

Also Read | Thevar’s political vision

The report also talked of Thevar not being permitted to speak initially when he got up and urged the organisers to allow him to address the audience first. “As his request was refused, there was some confusion and a section of the audience became noisy,” the report said. Subsequently, the organisers permitted him to speak.

Another row

There was one more row associated with the celebration, which was, according to another report of May 31, a “seven-day” affair. Inaugurating the celebration on the Tamukam Grounds on May 30, C. Rajagopalachari (CR or Rajaji), who demitted the office of the Chief Minister in 1954, appealed to the people of the State “to work for the common object of the Tamil Sangam, namely the development of Tamil language and literature, eschewing caste and communal differences,” said the May 31 report.

“It was taught to him [CR] during his student days that Aryans and Dravidians belonged to two different stocks. Books which he used in his student days were books of antiquity and were meaningless. Unfortunately, some people held fast to those ideas and were proceeding on wrong lines,” the report added.

His reference to the Aryans and Dravidians apparently came in for criticism from the subsequent speakers. The Forward Bloc’s leader, in his response, also spoke of the “impropriety” of the speakers in criticising CR’s observations. The report of June 4 ended with a note saying, “Mr. Muthuramalinga Thevar then left the dais and the meeting went on without any incident.”

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