M. P. Sivanjanam

13. The Three-Pronged Agitation of July 1953

and other 1953 agitations

Chapter 13
"Political History of the Rise and Fall of Dravidian Parties in Tamil Nadu (South India)"

Thanjai Nalankilli, Ph.D.

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2007 (ID. 2007-07-02); Minor update: August 2012
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Table of Contents of the book "Political History of the Rise and Fall of Dravidian Parties in Tamil Nadu (South India)"and links to other chapters


1. Introduction

2. Chittoor Agitation (not part of the three-pronged agitation)

3. The Three-Pronged Agitation of July 1953

4. Agitation Against Nehru's Insult (one part of the three-pronged agitation)

5. Commentary

1. Introduction

Nineteen fifty three was an active year for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). It initiated several demonstrations and also took part in others.

2. Chittoor Agitation (not part of the three-pronged agitation)

Chittoor agitation was not part of DMK's Three-Pronged Agitation of July 1953. Neither was it spearheaded by DMK. DMK took part in this agitation at the invitation of the organizers.

In 1953 Madras State consisted of much of today's Tamil Nadu State and large parts of today's Andhra State (Andhra Pradesh); the former was predominantly Tamil speaking and the latter predominantly Telugu speaking. The Telegu speakers naturally wanted their own state and so those areas were separated from Madras State and Andhra State was formed in 1953. (There would be further India-wide reorganization of states in 1956.)

Chittoor District had a very large Tamil population in some areas close to Madras State boundary and they wanted to be part of the Madras State instead of Andhra State (Andhra Pradesh). Tamilarasu Kazagam headed the agitation to transfer those areas from Andhra to Madras State. Tamilarasu Kazhagam head M. P. Sivanjanam asked DMK to participate in the agitation and it agreed. DMK volunteers stopped trains near Thiruththani for a few days as a form of protest and many were arrested. The agitation, however, did not succeed in its aim.

Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called the agitation "nonsense" and this insult would seed another agitation, as we would see in Section 3.

3. The Three-Pronged Agitation of July 1953 ("mum-munai poaraattam" in Tamil - மும்முனைப் போராட்டம்)

DMK Executive Committee (seyal kuzhu) met on July 13, 1953 at the headquarter building in Madras and passed resolutions regarding the three-pronged agitation already planned.

  1. July 14, 1953: E. V. K. Sampath to head demonstrations in front of  Chief Minister Rajagopalachari's house (Rajaji's house) in Madras protesting his newly introduced "caste-based education scheme". More information about Rajaji's  "caste-based education" scheme may be found in Chapter 14. (Notes: E. V. K. Sampath was DK President Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy's nephew. He was a founding member of DMK. The "caste-based education" was called kula vazhi kalvi thittam or kulaththozhil kalvi thittam by its critics in Tamil.) [Note: Official name of the proposed education sysyem was "Modified Scheme of Elementary Education". Very few people used this name except in official documents. Hereditary education policy, hereditary/caste education scheme, family vocation based education and Rajaji's education scheme are some of the other names people used. The Tamil name "kula vazhi kalvi thittam" (loosely translated as "caste-based education scheme") is the one used by many of the opponents of the scheme. DMK's English language website also uses the name "caste-based education policy" (seen in August 2012).]
  2. July 15, 1953: M. Karunanithi to head demonstrations in Dalmiyapuram to change the town's name from Dalmiyapuram to Kallakudi. 
  3. July 15, 1953: DMK branch offices to carry out rail-stopping agitations throughout Madras State in protest of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru calling the Chittoor agitation a "nonsense".

Around the time the executive committee meeting was about to end, around 7:30 PM, police came and arrested C. N. Annadurai, R. Nedunjchezhian, E. V. K. Sampath, K. A. Mathiazhagan and N. V. Natarajan. They were later sentenced to be held under guard until the court proceedings ended (that is just a few hours under guard) and 500 Rupees fine each. A very light sentence. However failure to pay the fine would result in three months imprisonment. All five chose to go to prison instead of paying the fine.

Coming back to the three-pronged agitation, they were held as scheduled. Police resorted to lathi charges (baton charges), tear gassings, arrests and even shootings to break up the agitations. DMK held statewide protest meetings on September 13, 1953 against these police "high-handedness" during the three-pronged agitation. There were a few local protests on other days too. DMK cadres also showed black flags to Chief Minister Rajaji in Madras, Kanchipuram and North Arcot as protest to his "high-handed" handling of the agitation and the imprisonment of DMK leaders. There were also black flag demonstrations in September and October 1953 before the state governor Prakasa in Katpadi, Valaja and Vellore, before minister U. Krishna Rao in Valaja, before Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Madras State Governor Prakasa in Madras, before Nehru and Rajaji in Madurai and before Nehru in Coimbatore.

We will discuss the July 15 agitation against Jawaharlal's insult in the next section. The other two agitations (the agitations against Rajaji's caste-based education and Kallakudi agitation) will be discussed in Chapters 14 and 15, respectively.

4. Agitation Against Nehru's Insult (one part of the three-pronged agitation)

As planned, DMK volunteers stopped trains on July 15, 1953 either by lying on railway tracks or by pulling the "danger chain" from within the trains (driver would immediately stop the train if a passenger pulled the danger chain). This happened in Chennai (Madras), Chithamparam, Coimbatore (Kovai), Madurai, Thiruvannamalai, Thooththukudi (Tutucorin) and other places. Police lathi-charged the crown in Coimbatore and since even this did not break up the demonstrations opened fire. Four died and about 20 were injured. A number of people were arrested in Chennai (around 182), Chithamparam, Coimbatore (around 300) Madurai (over 100), Thiruvannamalai (around 38) and Thooththukudi (around 26). Total arrests on July 15 were over 5000. Many stores in Madurai and Thoothukudi closed protesting police actions in Thoothukudi.

A few of the arrested received jail sentences ranging from a few months to over a year. Some sentences were later reduced on appeal.

5. Commentary

We presented these agitations in some detail here to show that DMK, in its early years, was confrontational with both the state and central governments when it thought Tamil interests were compromised. DMK members made many sacrifices in those days as seen above (beaten, tear-gassed, imprisoned and shot at). This is a far cry from the DMK of the 1990s and beyond (after it became the ruling party in the state and started having ministerial positions at the central government). It became the establishment party and was more interested in clinging to power in the state and saying "yes" to the Indian central government even when Tamil interests were severely compromised.

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

Chithamparam - Chidamparam, Chidhamparam
Chittoor - Chiththoor, Chittur, Chiththtur, Sittoor, Siththoor, Sitoor, Situr, Sithur
Karunanidhi - Karunanithi
Mathiazhagan - Mathiazagan, Mathialagan
Nedunjchezhian - Nedunchezhian, Nedunjchezian
Sivanjanam - Sivanganam
Thiruvannamalai - Tiruvannamalai
Thoothukudi - Thoothukkudi

Also, some writers called the three-pronged agitation of July 1953 as “Triple Agitations of July 1953”.

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