demand for independent Dravidanadu or Tamilnadu

Why DK and DMK initially asked for Independent Dravida Nadu and later moved towards Independent Tamil Nadu

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2005 (ID. 2005-05-02)
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DK - Dravidar Kazhagam

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

"Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra should each SEPARATELY become independent countries and THEN the four should join to form a 'Dravidian Federation'." - Official history of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) by a founding member of DK and DMK, Mr. T. M. Parthasarathy

A question often asked of me when I speak about the current Tamilnadu Independence Movement is, "why did Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) demand independent Dravida Nadu in its early years and not independent Tamil Nadu?" (Dravida Nadu, as it was contemplated, consisted of the region where Kannadigas, Malayalis, Tamils and  Telugus live. These people are of Dravidian origin and spoke the Dravidian languages of Karnataka, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. In today's (2005) geographical terms the contemplated Dravida Nadu would encompass the entire Southern India, consisting of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu states.)

To understand the reason why DK and DMK demanded independent Dravidanadu and not independent Tamilnadu, one has to look into the history of Tamil Nationalist Movement or Tamil National Movement. The earliest call for independence was in fact for Tamil Nadu (and not Dravida Nadu) [Reference 1].

T. P. Vedachalam of the Justice Party founded Tamil Nation Liberation Association (Tamil Desa Viduthalai Sangam) in Tiruchi in August 1938. The Association held a few meetings around Tamil Nadu and then ceased its operations because the cause was adopted by a larger organization, the Justice Party itself.

Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy (EVR) of DK and C. N Annadurai (Arinjar Anna or CNA) of DMK also initially called for Tamil Nadu independence. Periyar EVR, who at that time headed the Self-Respect Movement, addressing a meeting in Salem on October 1938, said that, "the best way to preserve the liberty of Tamils is to agitate for separation from the rest of India and the proposed All-India Federation, just as Ceylon and Burma had chosen to stand aloof from India". He was elected President of the Justice Party in December 1938. He said that the separation of Tamil Nadu from the rest of the Indian Subcontinent would be the principal demand of the Party. Justice Party was reformed and renamed Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) in 1944.

In December 1939, speaking at the "Tamil Nadu for Tamils" Meeting, C. N. Annadurai enunciated the need for independent Tamil Nadu. He would found the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949.

In a speech on December 17, 1939, Periyar EVR raised the slogan "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians", changing the earlier slogan "Tamil Nadu for Tamils". It is at the Justice Party State Conference in Thiruvarur on August 24, 1940 that Tamil Nadu Independence Movement morphed into Dravida Nadu Independence Movement. It passed a resolution that, in order to protect Dravidian culture, arts and economy, the Dravidian homeland of Madras Province should be separated from the rest of the Indian Subcontinent and ruled as a separate unit (until the British leave the subcontinent, at which time the Madras Province would become an independent country). Thus what started as Tamil Nadu Independence Movement morphed into Dravida Nadu Independence Movement. At that time both Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy and C. N Annadurai were Justice Party members.

One reason for Justice Party's call for independent Dravida Nadu (instead of independent Tamil Nadu) could be the influence of Telugu leaders in the Justice Party at that time (Telugus are not Tamils but Dravidians). The top rung Telugu leaders in the Justice Party included A. C. Parthasarathy Naidu, Ragavaiah Naidu, K. V. Reddy Naidu and A. Subbarayalu Reddy. Another non-Tamil leader of the Justice Party was T. M. Nair (a Malayali); he strived very hard for Dravida Nadu independence. These leaders worked well with Tamil leaders of the party like Periyar EVR and Annadurai, and developed a strong bond. Thus what started as Tamilnadu independence movement changed to Dravidanadu independence movement. While the Telugu leaders in the Justice Party aspired for independent Dravida Nadu, there was very little support among the Telugu population. Neither was much support, if any, among the Malayali and Kannadiga population. In contrast, there was substantial active support for a separate country from India among the Tamil population (by no means it was a majority but the support was vocal, active and in substantial numbers).

After the renaming of Justice Party to Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) in 1944, almost all speeches and writings about Dravida Nadu independence were in Tamil with a sprinkling of English articles. Almost all public meetings and conferences about independent Dravida Nadu were held in Tamil areas. By now it was clear that the push would be for independent Tami Nadu with the concept of a federal Dravida Nadu, consisting of autonomous Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, put in the backburner. This is very clearly stated in the official history of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) by a founding member of DK and DMK, Mr. T. M. Parthasarathy, with an introduction by C. N. Annadurai. Parthasarathy writes in this Tamil book "Thi.Mu.Ka. Varalaaru" (DMK History), 

"Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra should each SEPARATELY become independent countries and THEN the four should join to form a 'Dravidian Federation'."

Thus DMK's position was to strive for an independent Tamil Nadu (Tamil Country) with the eventual creation of a Dravidian Federation called "Dravida Nau" (Dravidian Country) if and when people of Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala fight for and get independence. DMK abandoned its "independence for Dravida Nadu (or independent Tamil Nadu)" demand in 1963 immediately after the Indian Parliament passed the Sixteenth Amendment to the Indian Constitution that prohibited those who advocate separatism from running for public offices (such as Indian parliament and state legislative assembly) [Reference 2].

Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) changed its demand for independent Dravida Nadu to independent Tamil Nadu in the 1960s. Party President Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy changed the banner in his Tamil magazine Viduthalai from "Dravida Nadu for Dravidians" to "Tamil Nadu for Tamils". Periyar never gave up his demand for independence although he did not enter into any type of agitation for it after the 1950s; he was concentrating on social reforms in Tamil Nadu. According to Tamil Nationalist Poet Pavalareru Perunjchththiranar, Periyar told him just a few months before his death that he would start an agitation for Tamilnadu independence soon. Periyar passed away in 1973 before starting such an agitation.

Thus what started initially as Tamil Nadu independence took a turn to Dravida Nadu independence and then took a turn back to Tamil Nadu independence because there was very little, if any, support in Andhra Pradesh (Telugu), Karnataka (Kannada) and Kerala (Malayalam).

EDITORIAL NOTE: Some Tamil names are spelled differently by different people. Here are some variations of names used in this article:

Dravida Nadu - Dravidanadu

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam - Dravida Munnetta Kazagam

Pavalareru - Pavalareru

Perunjchththiranar - Perunchththiranar

Tiruchi - Trichi, Thiruchi, Thiruchirapalli

Tamil Nadu - Tamilnadu

T. P. Vedachalam - T. P. Vethachalm


1. DMK and Tamil Nadu Independence: A Recent Political History of TamilNadu (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2003 (28 KB)

2. DMK, Dravida Nadu and D.B.S. Jeyaraj (by .J. Trivedi and Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2003 (10 KB)


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