9. Censorship of Dravidian Voices
TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2006 (ID. 2006-04-01)
DK - Dravidar Kazhagam
DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and later Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had a number of excellent writers and orators. They published several magazines, published books and wrote stories, dialogs and songs for plays and movies. These publications, plays and movies attracted huge audiences. Some DK and DMK leaders were also first class orators who could keep audiences spell bound. These writings and speeches played a part in attracting the younger generation to DK and DMK. The Tamil nationalist theme of the writings and speeches found harmony with many scholars, teachers and students that many became members or sympathizers of DK and DMK. The rationalist ideals propagated through the writings and speeches also strung a chord with some. This annoyed, irritated and, to some extent, scared those opposed to the ideals of these parties. British rulers did not censor these views but once the British left the subcontinent in 1947 and Congress Party came to power, Congress politicians made a concerted effort to choke the voices of the Dravidian parties.
Madras State Government banned Pulavar Kuzhanthai's Ravana Kaaviyam in 1948 . Pulavar Kuzhanthai wrote this epic poetry at the suggestion of Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker. This was an "alternate epic" or anti-thesis to to the famous Hindu epic Ramayanam. Ravanan, the villain of Ramayanam, is the hero of this epic. It should be noted that Ravanan was presented as mostly a honourable man even in Ramayanam. The book was published in 1946. Even some of those who did not agree with the theme and storyline of this epic praised its poetic excellence. Ban was imposed in 1948. Twenty-three years later, in 1971, the then DMK state government under chief minister Karunanidhi removed the ban.
In May 1949 the state government sent a notice to Annadurai's Dravida Nadu magazine that it has to pay a 3000 Rupees deposit because of its editorials on April 4 and 18, 1948. This action was brought forth under an old British law passed to harass publishers of anti-British views. Now the newly formed Indian Government (or its surrogate Madras State Government) was using it to harass those who publish views opposed to it. In 1949, 3000 Rupees was sizable money. Annadurai called for donations from party members and readers, and paid the deposit. But he appealed the government order and the Madras High Court ruled that no such deposit was needed. Government returned the money to Annadurai and he returned it to those who made the donations.
Government also banned Annadurai's book Ariya Maayai in 1949 (a direct translation of the book title would be "Aryan Magic" but a contextual translation would be "Aryan Trickeries"). The book provides extensive quotes from a number of authors, some dating back to 1807, about the history and philosophies of Aryans. Though it has much useful and interesting information, it is also at times "crude" with occasional "low blows" on Brahmins. It was typical of the writings and teachings of Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy, Annadurai and some other top Dravidian leaders in the 1940s. Periyar continued to espouse his anti-Brahmin views until his death. However Annadurai toned down his rhetoric against Brahmins with a view of entering election politics. Today (year 2006) none of the Dravidian parties in politics make critical comments about Brahmins.
Coming back to Annadurai's book Ariya Maayai, this small book was first published in 1943. At the time the book was banned in 1949, it was in its third printing and over 15000 copies had been sold. Government also filed a lawsuit against the author Annadurai and the publisher. Tiruchi Court fined Annadurai 700 Rupees (or 6 months imprisonment if he failed to pay) and fined the publisher Kannappan 500 Rupees fine (or 4 months imprisonment if he failed to pay). Annadurai chose to go to prison instead of paying the fine. DMK organized protests throughout the Tamil areas of Madras State; government relented and released him after ten days. Annadurai appealed the ban of Ariya Maayai and the High Court ruled in 1951 that the ban was illegal. Several prints of the book had come out since then. However DMK does not talk about this book in recent years lest they irritate their political allies in New Delhi, many of whom are Brahmins/Aryans. (During the ban on Ariya Maayai, DMK volunteers in North Arcot District read the book to groups of people in 150 villages. Such was the ardor of DMK cadres in those early years of DMK.)
The state government filed a case against the author of the book "Karuppu Sattai Oziya Venduma?" claiming that it was creating communal tension. The court found the author, P. Selvaraj, innocent on August 24, 1950. [The title of the book may be loosely translated as "Should the black shirts die off?" Many DK volunteers wore black shirts in those days (color of their flag) and thus called black shirts.]
Government also banned some plays written by Annadurai and other DK/DMK leaders. DMK Executive Committee (Seyarkuzhu) decided to violate the ban. On October 23, 1950 it wrote to district offices to stage these plays in spite of the ban. Attempts were made to stage the plays in many towns but police stopped the plays.
This chapter illustrates the extent to which the post-British government went on to suppress Dravidian points of view. Within two decades the Dravidian parties came to power and moderated their views in order to increase their voter base. But Tamil nationalist perspectives are still suppressed in Tamil Nadu (as of this writing in 2006). Tamil nationalist meetings are often banned on some excuse. Magazines are sometimes confiscated and editors harassed.
SUMMARY: Censorship of Dravidian voices in Tamil Nadu (India) in 1948, 1949.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Some Tamil names are spelled differently by different people. Here are some variations of names used in this chapter:
Ariya Maayai - Aariya Mayai
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